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CHICAGO-Susan Gillette wouldn't mind having her new business cards read "guardian angel."

That's the role envisioned by Ms. Gillette who, after months of speculation, last week officially relinquished her post as president of DDB Needham Worldwide's Chicago office. She will continue to work for the agency part time, primarily on the $100 million Helene Curtis Industries business she pitched and won in December.

No one will inherit the title of president, which she held since November 1990. Instead, seven managing partners will run the agency's largest office.

One of the seven, Exec VP-Managing Director Alan Pilkington, will assume Ms. Gillette's administrative duties. Two other exec VPs will also become managing partners: Bob Scarpelli, chief creative officer, and Jan Zwiren, director of strategic business development.

Four other client-group managers are being promoted to exec VP-managing partner: Susan's husband, Ray; John Greening; Dawn Hudson; and Dick Rogers.

Ms. Gillette said the new team management structure is consistent with DDB Needham Chairman Keith Reinhard's idea of "clusters" within a larger agency network. "I've been leading the agency, but these people have been managing the agency already," she said. "We're just giving key managers more responsibility; they will cluster back together to make agencywide decisions."

An 181/2-year DDB Needham employee, Ms. Gillette said she's proud of leading the agency as a "war general" during turbulent change. Her "tough love" management style helped bridge a growing rift between the agency's creative-driven groups and account-driven groups, while developing more package-goods business and "forever changing the way this agency does business."

"It's easy to be a great agency for a $100 million account; we're now a great agency for $3 million to $5 million ac counts as well," she said.

Ms. Gillette leaves the restruc tured DDB Needham with the agency at 460 employees, down from a high of 625 two years ago but with billings up 18% to $615 million. Before winning the $100 million Helene Curtis account, bill ings were up 3% to 4% for 1993.

Ms. Gillette will have no official title, save her continuing role as a member of the worldwide board. She will work half time, mostly on Helene Curtis' business but also as an adviser to other clients.

"Clients don't care who runs the agency," she said. "I'm not leaving Needham; I'll just be contributing in different ways."

Helene Curtis VP-Marketing and Consumer Products Richard Frank knew when Ms. Gillette pitched its global business she would not be around full time.

Dismissing all the public speculation about her reasons for leaving, Ms. Gillette, 43, who worked part time for five years after becoming a mother, said she wants to spend time with her two daughters, ages 9 and 11.

"I've given a lot to get this space," she said. "I want to be with my daughters while I still have the opportunity to impact their lives."M


Susan Gillette

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