R/GA's Bob Greenberg stepping down as CEO

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R/GA CEO and Chairman Bob Greenberg
R/GA CEO and Chairman Bob Greenberg Credit: R/GA

One of advertising's most iconic names is stepping down from his CEO role early next year. R/GA's founder, executive chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg will be exiting the role in January.

Sean Lyons, the company's U.S. president, will take on the role of global CEO. He will be the first CEO at the company other than Greenberg, 70.

Greenberg founded the agency, owned by Interpublic Group of Cos., with his brother Richard in 1977. He will continue as the company's executive chairman at least through 2020.

"I'm not going anywhere," said Greenberg in an interview. "People are trying to say maybe I am. I am going to going to go to my office every day. I have the same office, I have the same assistant." In fact, Greenberg said he's leaving Thursday to visit the agency's Tokyo office, meet what he described as a "big new client" and give three speeches.

Greenberg said he decided three years ago to step down in 2019. Originally he targeted mid-2019, but it was "moved up because it's a complicated thing to do," he said. "We put a tremendous amount of time over the last year to make sure that our offering when we hit 2019 is as it is—I think we are very well positioned for what is upcoming."

"I believe that the growth of the company is in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Asia," he added. "I am very excited to try and take that next step with Sean and our executive team."

Lyons was at R/GA for over a decade before departing to join Havas in 2013 to oversee digital. He returned to R/GA three years ago to take on the U.S. president role.

The agency's global chief strategy officer Barry Wacksman and global chief operating officer and R/GA Ventures managing partner Stephen Plumlee are also being elevated to vice chairmen.

This has been a year of major change for R/GA. In January, R/GA's global chief creative officer Nick Law left to become chief creative of Publicis Groupe and president of Publicis Communications. In May, R/GA's Co-U.S. Chief Creative Officer Chloe Gottlieb departed to become a director of user experience at Google. In July, Publicis Groupe agency Saatchi & Saatchi New York hired her co-chief creative offcer at R/GA, Taras Wayner, as its chief creative officer.

Asked about the turnover, Greenberg grew defensive, pointing to their long tenures at R/GA and how they moved on to important roles. "When you look at the amount of time that Nick was here -- I think it was 17 years -- you show me somebody else that's been somewhere else for 17 years at Nick's level. And he's now the president of Publicis … how is that a bad thing?"

Asked if any new changes were coming, he said, "This isn't a 2.0 or anything. It's just the continuation of the design of an innovation company, which is really what we are." He added: "We have no intention to change anything. We intend to grow though."

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