Indianapolis independent agency Young & Laramore has named Tom Denari as its new CEO, replacing Paul Knapp who held the position for 25 years and will remain chairman of the board. Denari will retain his duties as president and chief strategy officer, positions he took on in 2005.
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Moving forward, Knapp will have no oversight of day-to-day operations but will act as a resource for Denari when needed. This was a decision that had been in the making for a couple of years, Knapp confirmed.
“This agency has been around since 1983 and has always been fiercely independent,” Knapp said. “We've gone through phases of being approached by the holding companies and other agencies in and outside the region to see if we wanted to either be purchased or merge in some way, and we've always politely turned those things down." He added, "The founders—who are no longer in the company—myself, and Tom, who's now going to essentially be the third-generation majority owner, we have all been of the same mind and that is, we want this to be homegrown, fiercely independent and we want to see this be a multi-generational enterprise.”
Denari, however, declined to offer specifics. "Since we’re a privately held company, we’d rather not get into the details of the relative shares of company ownership. What we can say is that the transition of Paul’s financial exit from the company will likely happen over the next few years."
New business wins
Beyond keeping the agency’s independence, part of Denari’s vision will be holding on to its longtime clients, like faucet brand Brizo, which it has partnered with for 18 years, while attracting attention from national brands. The pandemic helped the agency win a number of new clients last year, including brands like financial services platform Gainbridge, consumer goods brand Rust-Oleum, consumer electronics brand Sound United, and Bit-O-Honey candy, in part due to the restrictions on travel.
“One of the most shocking things to me through the pandemic was beginning to win business from brands that are far from the Midwest,” Knapp said. “With everybody now so comfortable with meeting over Zoom, it's democratized new business." He added: "We used to have a rule that if a client was more than a direct plane flight away, we probably weren't going go after that business, because the barrier for a client to try to navigate to Indianapolis would've been difficult.”