"I believe in destiny, and I think the fact that we met Tim
Andree comes from destiny," says Yuzuru Kato, Dentsu Inc.'s senior
VP for Japanese operations, through a translator. "He all of a
sudden appears like a savior to help us."
Dentsu Inc., a 110-year-old agency dominant in Japan, had long
tried and failed to gain traction in the states through alliances
such as Dentsu Young & Rubicam,
Havas Dentsu Marsteller and, the biggest bet, a 21% stake in
Mr. Andree's approach has instead been to buy and build. He's
made smarter bets -- and maybe gotten a little lucky. Under his
guidance, Dentsu paid well for top-of -the-line U.S. shops, such as
Attik; Firstborn; 360i, and its parent
Innovation Interactive, and most notably, McGarryBowen -- the
new-business machine so formidable it's been named Ad Age Agency of
the Year twice in three years.
"Those were tasteful acquisitions that demonstrated
sophistication," says Russel Wohlwerth, a longtime agency search
consultant who recently launched External View Consulting Group.
"It's changed the perception of Dentsu from aimless wanderer in the
U.S. to serious player with a good sense of the market."
In 2010, Dentsu's stateside revenue more than doubled to $218.4
million from 2009, according to the Ad Age DataCenter.
During Mr. Andree's tenure, Dentsu's percentage of revenue from the
U.S. has jumped to more than 6% in 2010 from 1.5% in 2006. When he
joined, Dentsu's top 10 clients in the Americas and Europe were
Japanese. Last year, that list included U.S. marketers such as
Kraft and Verizon and only two
Watch for Mr. Andree to make Dentsu more competitive in South
America (he's been spending lots of time in Brazil). The industry
is also waiting to see if he'll add a media-planning and -buying
firm to the fold.
With his snow-white hair, a complexion made for
sunburn-prevention ads and height towering more than a foot over
the average Japanese man, the 50-year-old Mr. Andree should seem
out of place in Dentsu's mammoth headquarters near Tokyo Bay. But
"Tim-san," as he's called, embodies the agency and its culture,
which is sometimes at odds with the American way of doing
"The concept of service is really important in Japanese business
culture, especially in professional services," says Rochelle Kopp,
managing principal of Japan Intercultural Consulting. "In the U.S.
we say "The customer is king.' In Japan, the saying is "The
customer is god.'
"There are people in business that think leadership is power and
control, and people who think leadership is service," Mr. Andree
says. "That's why I'm comfortable at Japanese companies."
Indeed, he is equally at home drinking Coors Light at Knicks
games as he is ordering dried stingray with mayonnaise in fluent
Japanese. He calls Nishi-Funabashi, the Tokyo neighborhood where he
lived, "the Bensonhurst of Japan," as it shares the same quiet
characteristics as its Brooklyn counterpart. And his height
differential is taken in stride. "He cannot find a place to hide,"
joked Dentu's Mr. Kato.
Mr. Andree's story, as that of many very tall men, begins with
He was the first player at Brother Rice High School in suburban
Detroit to be drafted to the NBA, selected in 1983 by the Chicago
Bulls. Rice is a boys-only Catholic high school; Mr. Andree, the
youngest of 12 children, was raised in a deeply religious
"Dad worked hard and Mom prayed a lot," he recalls.
His father was a union ironworker who also took shifts as a
night janitor and butcher in the hope his kids would have
white-collar jobs. His mother's prayers must have been answered:
one sister is a nun, two brothers are Catholic priests and all 12
kids have college degrees. As for his dad, Mr. Andree honors him by
sticking to white-collar dress, eschewing the now-standard Madison
Avenue uniform of casual jeans and sneakers for dark suits and
That upbringing and Mr. Andree's family have clearly made an
impression on his professional life. In his LinkedIn profile, he
describes himself as "husband, father, loyal friend, leader,
author, marketing and advertising honcho, basketball coach,
For a man who flies from L.A. to London to Tokyo, then Russia,
Brazil and Australia in the course of two months, the globetrotter
part came early. Mr. Andree's first trip abroad was barnstorming
Europe in exhibition basketball games. After stumbles in the NBA,
he turned to pro ball abroad, touring 20 countries before playing
in Monaco for the Grimaldi dynasty.
"My stock really fell after I left high school," he says of his
But it was basketball that also wrote Mr. Andree's first ticket
to Japan. Knowing his days in the pros were numbered, the economics
major at Notre Dame asked his agent to find him a team that could
also teach him about business. The Toyota Pacers had
just the setup.
As part of his contract, Mr. Andree would practice with Toyota's
team every week, play games and report to its global sales office
in Tokyo. It was 1985, and he was the first foreigner in the
building, he says.
Recalling those days, Mr. Andree utters Japanese phrases before
translating into English. Searching for the name for company
housing, he first sees the word in kanji characters in his
mind's eye and eventually comes up with shataku. He
declined those accommodations, meant for single executives, as he
was happy to cook and clean for himself. He was eventually joined
by his college sweetheart and now wife, Laureen.
"At first, they didn't know what to do with me," Mr. Andree says
of his first few months at Toyota. "They wanted me to come in at 11
and leave at 1 and come to lunch with them."
He'd show up early anyway and invent tasks for himself,
including cutting and sorting reams of thermal-paper faxes arriving
daily from Washington and Brussels, organizing them into neat piles
with summary notes on top.
Managers eventually took interest in him and, as more foreigners
joined the office, Mr. Andree rose. Toyota eventually moved Mr.
Andree, Laureen and their then 2-year-old son Tim Jr. to New York
to lead external affairs, corporate advertising and investor
relations for North America.
"To have your first business experience not only overseas but at
a company that really trains you to think and how to manage, I was
in the right place at the right time," Mr. Andree says. "I got
After 13 years with Toyota, including five in a basketball
uniform, Mr. Andree was hired to a marketing post at Canon. (Both
companies are now Dentsu clients.) At his next stop, a short stint
at private-equity firm The Dilenschneider Group, he began to
develop the deft touch with mergers and acquisitions that has
served Dentsu so well. Today, with Dentsu's track record and cash,
Mr. Andree is among the first people to get the call when hot
agencies are looking to sell.
He no longer plays ball because of a bum knee, but his love for
the sport is palpable on a rainy Wednesday evening at Madison
Square Garden, where a somewhat damp Mr. Andree miraculously folds
himself into a stadium seat. (He travels without an umbrella. He
says he's never found one big enough.)
Tim Jr., 23 and the oldest of six, is also at the game. He too
played basketball for Notre Dame, and his college roommate Luke
Harangody, now a Cleveland Cavalier, is playing the home team.
Spectators making their way to their seats eye the elder Mr. Andree
curiously, searching his face, trying to determine whether he's a
retired basketball star.