Succumbs to Cancer at 51

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- DDB Worldwide President-CEO Ken Kaess died yesterday afternoon at his family’s home in Westport, Conn., following a six-month battle with cancer. He was 51.
Photo: Scott Gries
DDB Worldwide President-CEO Ken Kaess went on medical leave late last year. He died at home yesterday afternoon.

Madison Avenue giant
Mr. Kaess, who went on medical leave late last year, was a well-known industry figure, not only for leading one of the most storied of Madison Avenue’s giants but also for helping to create its annual Advertising Week event.

A memo from Omnicom Group President-CEO John Wren to DDB employees read: “For the last six months, Ken has fought a brave battle with cancer. For a while his progress was very good, miraculous, some of his doctors said. And so he returned to work last month, and the fact that he was able to delighted him. While he had been working from home via phone and e-mail since December, face-to-face meetings and walking the halls were what made Ken truly happy. Unfortunately, the nature of cancer and its treatments can be unpredictable, and earlier this month, Ken suffered a reversal.”

Became DDB president in 1997
Mr. Kaess began his career at DDB in 1977, leaving only for stints at Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor and New World Entertainment, where he was responsible for the cartoon “Muppet Babies.” Before ascending to DDB U.S. president in 1997, he ran the Los Angeles and New York offices of the agency network.

He was appointed North America president in 1998. The following year he was elevated to president of DDB Worldwide and chairman of its Worldwide Operating Committee. In January 2001, he took on the position of CEO. Mr. Kaess was on the board of directors of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

During his leave, DDB’s day-to-day operations were handed by Mr. Kaess’ executive committee, which is co-chaired by DDB Europe President Michael Bray and North America President Dick Rogers.

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