Ostrowski Set to Retire From Porter Novelli

Longtime Agency Head to Leave at End of Year

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Helen Ostrowski, the first female CEO of a top 10 PR agency, is stepping down from her role as chairman of Porter Novelli at the end of the year.
Helen Ostrowski
Helen Ostrowski

Ms. Ostrowski has worked in the industry for nearly 40 years and spent the last 15 at Porter Novelli, where she served as head of the agency's health-care division, general manager of its New York office, head of global practices and president of the Americas. She was named CEO in 2003 and became chairman earlier this year.

She said she was leaving the Omnicom Group-owned agency to "selfishly" spend time on herself and with her family but that she "may" pursue other professional interests at some point.

Succession plan unfolds
Her decision doesn't come as a surprise to many. When Ms. Ostrowski, 57, was named chairman at the beginning of this year and Gary Stockman named CEO, it was part of a succession plan through which she began turning over some of her responsibilities to him and others. Her announcement about leaving was made internally through the company's corporate newsletter earlier this week.

Ms. Ostrowski also sent out a letter to other industry executives notifying them of her plan to leave. In it she wrote: "I wanted to share with you my decision to close this chapter in my professional life and retire from the agency at the end of the year. I arrived at this decision over two years ago and shared with our parent firm my intention to retire early. This triggered a transition year in 2007 as I began to turn over more responsibilities to others, and at the beginning of this year, we implemented our succession plan to a new leadership structure, with Gary Stockman as CEO and me as chairman, in a part-time role."

"We don't have any immediate plans to replace the position," said Mr. Stockman.

Agency not immune to trouble
Porter Novelli, not unlike other marketing agencies, has had its issues in 2008. There were reports of layoffs in the spring, and in the last few months it has lost two significant pieces of business, Humana and the American Cancer Society. The agency chose not to defend either piece of business, both of which were rumored to be seven-figure contracts.

Just this past week, the agency's parent company released third-quarter results, which showed negative revenue growth (-1.2%) for its PR division. Along with Porter Novelli, Omnicom's PR agency lineup includes Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, Brodeur Worldwide and Cone.
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