Interpublic Group PR Agency Golin Appoints Three CEOs

Longtime Chief Executive Fred Cook to Become Agency Chairman

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Golin incoming CEOs Jonathan Hughes, Gary Rudnick and Matt Neale and Chairman Fred Cook
Golin incoming CEOs Jonathan Hughes, Gary Rudnick and Matt Neale and Chairman Fred Cook Credit: Golin

After serving as CEO of Interpublic Group's Golin for 13 years and working at the agency since 1986, Fred Cook will shift to the role of chairman as the shop moves to a new leadership model next year with three chief executives.

On Jan. 1, 2017, Matt Neale, president of Europe, Middle East and Africa and co-president of New York; Gary Rudnick, president of Americas; and Jonathan Hughes, international president, will take on the positions of CEO+Vision, CEO+Operations and CEO+International, respectively. The trio will report to Mr. Cook on people and client matters, and IPG's CFO Frank Mergenthaler on financial and operational issues.

The CEO+ concept emerged from Golin's six-year-old g4 structure that divides employees into four specialist categories, including explorers, formerly known as strategists (insights and analytics), catalysts (account management and execution), connectors (media and social engagement) and creators (content development and conceptual ideas).

"The g4 model was designed for collaboration and for people to work together," said Mr. Neale. "Gary, Jon and I have shared our regional roles for the last four years, and we all love and care about the company and wanted to find a way to work together as CEOs."

He added that Golin believes having multiple people leading the company will allow it to be in more places around the world, stay closer to key clients and become more available for staff. "We firmly believe that three heads are better than one and we'll be able to make smarter decisions than just one sole person making calls," said Mr. Neale.

Golin decided to give the new roles the titles of CEO+ because each executive will act as "a traditional CEO plus extra areas of specialty," said Mr. Neale, whose added section is vision. As CEO+Vision, Mr. Neale is responsible for new products and intellectual property, thought leadership and agency reputation. Mr. Rudnick will concentrate on agency finance, human resources and client management in his role as CEO+Operations, and Mr. Hughes will help expand Golin's global footprint, partnerships and practices as CEO+International.

The three incoming CEOs will keep their prior responsibilities, which Mr. Neale said was very attractive about the role. Mr. Neale, who is based in New York, will continue traveling to London every month, while Mr. Rudnick will remain in Chicago and Mr. Hughes will stay in Hong Kong.

One of the inspirations for the multi-leader structure came from looking at different agency models around the world, including The Brooklyn Brothers, which has four people leading the shop, said Mr. Neale. Golin acquired the creative hotshop in February as a way to build out its content and paid media offerings.

While having three CEOs may seem like it would overcomplicate matters or create tension, Mr. Neale said the agency has been planning the new format for a year and designed it so that each leader has specific areas of responsibility. He said that while they can ask one another for counsel, the decision-making rests within the area of each subject owner. "We respect each other implicitly, and we think we're going to be faster and smarter," said Mr. Neale.

Mr. Cook is "absolutely" still part of the management team as chairman, and he and the three CEOs have signed on to a long-term vision for the agency through 2020, added Mr. Neale. Al Golin, who launched the shop 60 years ago and still comes into the office every day in Chicago, will continue serving as founder, and Ellen Ryan Mardiks will remain as vice chairman.

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