Cohn Cashes Out Of Soaring Shop

Agency Chairman Considers Work in Financial Services, Consulting
BOSTON–Rick Cohn will resign as chairman of Cohn Godley Norwood, which he co-founded four years ago and helped build into one of New England’s fastest-growing agencies.
“Cohn Godley has been doing real well and I have not been feeling elated,” Cohn said last week. “I’ve been preoccupied” thinking about career opportunities outside advertising.
Cohn, 50, said he would like to work for a financial services company where he could direct more than advertising. “There’s warfare going on in that industry. Everyone is gunning for a share of wallet, and I think it would be fun to be a part of that,” he said. Cohn is also considering either joining or starting a strategic consulting firm, which would not necessarily involve financial services.
Despite realizing a nearly 60 percent increase in billings last year to $32 million, Cohn said he needed to pursue new challenges. “What I’m really afraid of is that I’m going to reach a ripe old age and forget that I wanted to do this,” he said.
Cohn, who started his ad career as a copywriter, founded the Boston shop in 1994 with Ben Godley and Paul Norwood. Since its inception, Cohn Godley has attracted a strong core of business and consumer clients, most recently picking up an assignment from Security Capital Group in Chicago [Adweek, June 1].
During that pitch, Cohn was “conspicuous in his absence,” said Skip Pile, president of Pile and Co., the Boston consulting firm that oversaw the review process. Since “he played no role in the pitch,” Pile said it was doubtful his departure would have any effect on the assignment.
As long as the agency’s standard of work does not drop off after Cohn’s departure, Pile said he will have no reservations about inviting the shop into upcoming pitches, he said.
There is no immediate plan to replace Cohn, said Godley, the agency’s president and chief executive. “If this had happened two years ago, it would not have been a good time. There’s never a good time, but we’ve been recruiting a deep management team here for awhile and it’s in place. He’s definitely going to be missed.”
Godley and creative director Norwood have bought out Cohn’s one-third stake in the agency and continue as equal partners. The agency’s name will remain the same, at least for the short term.
Cohn has signed a “limited” non-compete and nonsolicitation contract with the shop, Godley said.
Cohn got his start in the mid-70s at Pearson and MacDonald in Boston, later joining Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos and then forming Rizzo Partners Cohn.
–with David Gianatasio