Maurer, 47, dies in crash

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Usually it was Don Maurer who sought out New York ad executives and marketing luminaries in his bid to turn his North Carolina shop into a national agency powerhouse. On Oct. 23, they came to him, saying goodbye to an agency veteran who doubled billings within the last four years for McKinney & Silver while landing marquee accounts and maintaining a sterling reputation in the process.

Mr. Maurer, 47, president-CEO of McKinney, died in a single-car accident Oct. 20. The 350 people who attended his funeral were as much a testament to Mr. Maurer's vision and business acumen as to his integrity.

"He was the kind of person who makes you proud to be in this business," said Ken Kaess, president-CEO at Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York, who worked with Mr. Maurer in the late 1970s and remained a close friend. "He wasn't just a great advertising person. He was a great person."

At a time when Madison Avenue struggles to retain clients and find new ones, Mr. Maurer's improbably based Raleigh, N.C., shop reeled in prestigious accounts. In August, Nasdaq tapped Havas Advertising-owned McKinney over hot shops including sibling Arnold Worldwide, Boston. Four months earlier, it had gained additional business from Bacardi USA. Its eight-year relationship with Volkswagen's Audi of America endured five ownership changes at McKinney.

"North Carolina isn't the first place I would have gone to hire an agency," said Paul Francis, senior marketing manager at Bacardi. "But through [Mr. Maurer's] work, he showed good creative doesn't have to come out of New York."

The client roster proved Mr. Maurer's leadership and competitiveness, considering he managed to more than double billings amid five years of ownership churn, including McKinney's doomed sale in 1997 to what became now-bankrupt MarchFirst and the shop's April purchase by France's Havas. Now part of Havas' Arnold Worldwide Partners, McKinney has grown to 140 people and $350 million in billings.

Until a successor is named, the agency will be run by a nine-person management committee put in place by Mr. Maurer. "He recognized it couldn't be a one-man show," said Cameron McNaughton, director of client services and a member of the executive team.

Despite living 480 miles south of Madison Avenue, Maurer made himself and his agency fixtures in the Manhattan ad community. He visited New York twice a month, held a Christmas party there and entertained in the hippest environs.

Divorced, Mr. Maurer was a devoted father who visited colleges with his youngest daughter, a 17-year-old looking at East Coast schools, and maintained a good relationship with his ex-wife, who delivered a eulogy at the service. He so enjoyed his parents that he tried to extend vacations together, said longtime friend Steve Gundersen, CEO of advertising placement firm Gundersen Partners.

"He had a strong family bond. You could see that extend to his brother and sister and obviously his immediate family [which includes another teen-age daughter]," Mr. Gundersen said.

A 1976 graduate of Long Island University, Mr. Maurer worked the account side in the New York offices of J. Walter Thompson, Doyle Dane Bernbach and BBDO. Later, he became director of client service at Margeotes Fertitta & Weiss, New York, and Mullen, Wenham, Mass. In 1994 he moved to Timberland Co., where he built a worldwide marketing organization before moving to Raleigh in 1996 to become McKinney's partner-senior VP-account management director on Royal Caribbean Cruises. In 1997, he became CEO-the shop's third since it opened in 1969.

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