Bell to Succeed Georgescu at Parent; Vick Takes Curious New Role
NEW YORK–Tom Bell, former worldwide chairman and CEO of Y&R Advertising and the next CEO of Young & Rubicam Inc., talks with a slight Southern accent, wears navy suits and has pictures of former President Ronald Reagan on his wall. Colleagues say he’s demanding, decisive and crisp. He likes his meetings short and regularly uses the phrase, “Let’s do it.” As Bell put it, “I have a bias for actions.”
Like his predecessor, Peter Georgescu, Bell understands what makes clients tick and feels at home in a corner office. But he seems more fiery than the worldly Georgescu, who has “the most even disposition and demeanor” Bell has ever seen. “I guess I’m a little more volatile,” Bell said, after rising to president and COO of Y&R Inc. last week.
Bell personifies Georgescu’s vision of “working together in an integrated fashion against the client problem,” a source said.
Come January, Bell takes the CEO title, former COO Ed Vick becomes chairman and chief creative officer, and Georgescu, chairman emeritus.
Georgescu, who held the top job for five years, steered Y&R’s transition to a public company and, through a strategy of client consolidation, oversaw a doubling of the parent company’s worldwide billings from $7.9 billion to $14.7 billion.
As chairman emeritus, Georgescu, 60, will continue to work with key corporate clients, including Sears and Ford. Same goes for Vick, 54, who is now charged with raising the quality of the creative product, a task that raised eyebrows considering his account management background.
Vick was being groomed to become CEO but said his 11-month stint as COO convinced him the job was not for him. In August 1998, Vick said he told Georgescu he was no longer interested in the job. “Peter had set me up to be CEO. In fact, I had said, ‘I want to be CEO.’ But it was just like a suit that didn’t fit,” Vick said. “But if I can be chairman of Y&R and have fun, then that’s great.”
Y&R last week reported an 11 percent gain in revenues for the second quarter, matching the growth for the first half of the year. Y&R also said it was taking a majority stake in its partnership with Dentsu in Asia, with the exception of DY&R in Japan.
Bell, 49, increased the profitability of Burson-Marsteller when he ran that Y&R unit and repositioned it as a “perception management” company. He played a key role in Citibank’s $800 million consolidation at Y&R and has impressed analysts as a smooth operator.
“I don’t think insiders were surprised [about Bell’s ascension] because he played a major role” prior to the secondary offering, said Mike Russell of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.