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James Allman said he hasn't had a real U.S. job in "like, forever."

Well, like at least two decades. He left the country in 1980 to become an account director in J. Walter Thompson Co.'s Milan office. Since then, the Chicago native has traveled the globe, building and shoring up offices for JWT as well as his current employer, Ammirati Puris Lintas.

Last week, he returned to the U.S. as chairman-CEO of Ammirati's New York office.

Not only is the move a real job, it's also an opportunity to rebuild Ammirati's beleaguered headquarters. During his tenure abroad, he founded JWT's Thailand branch and rebuilt the Italian offices of both Ammirati and JWT.

He also ran Ammirati's Latin American operations for two years, based out of the New York office he now heads, before returning to London in 1997 to restructure the Unilever business, Ammirati's biggest account.


After parachuting into so many countries with a mission to re-create a business, Mr. Allman, 48, returns to the U.S. market with formidable team-building skills.

"The most valuable thing is realizing it's only the people who matter," he said. "I'll make changes to help people understand it's all about teams that will come up with the ultimate great work."

During his most recent stint in London, global marketing giant Unilever was re-inventing the way it approaches brand communications and non-traditional media-and admonishing its agencies to keep up or else.

"They know both the carrot and stick relationship work," Mr. Allman said.

"What I did [on] Unilever was relook at the way our agency was doing business with our largest client. I tried to get people to be hands-on with enough time to think about the strategic needs of their client counterparts," he said.

For example, he appointed a global planner and a global category director for each of Unilever's seven categories, but also gave each responsibility for working on specific brands in a particular region.


Moving suddenly to New York from a London-based job that involved traveling internationally 60% of the time, a somewhat jet-lagged Mr. Allman was on no known time zone last week, handling with aplomb a barrage of phone calls from around the world. He is, after all, used to switching jobs and countries quickly.

In the midst of one of his earlier international moves, he turned up in London one morning and realized all his credit cards were still in Milan.

On a personal level, Mr. Allman is thrilled-the moves bring him geographically closer to his daughter, Francesca, a Milan native who is now a freshman at

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