Gosper’s Second Thoughts Give Him A Second Chance

NEW YORK After months of wooing, Brett Gosper turned down an offer just last month from McCann Erickson, the agency he left a year ago. An impassioned show of support from Jean-Marie Dru, himself the subject of a recent whirlwind recruitment effort by Havas, convinced him to stay at TBWA.

But in the weeks that followed, Gosper would second-guess himself. “When the dust settled and I got away from the emotion of having to decide whether to go to McCann, in my mind, I wondered if I had made the right decision [to stay at TBWA] and swung the other way,” Gosper said Friday. “As time went on, I had the feeling such an opportunity might not come along again.”

The return of Gosper, 46, to Interpublic Group’s McCann as its U.S. president last week leaves open the question of who will replace him as leader of the New York office of Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day. But for John Dooner, CEO of McCann Worldgroup, it marks the homecoming of an executive he never wanted to lose in the first place.

Dooner had been chasing Gosper since at least June, when Dru, TBWA’s worldwide CEO and Gosper’s boss and ally there, nearly split to become CEO of France’s Havas, sources said. In his previous nine-month stint at McCann—his first job in U.S.—Gosper was general manager of New York. This time, Dooner has handed him a larger role, including the new post of U.S. president, oversight of several multinational clients and a seat on the WorldGroup board.

As GM, Gosper reported to Eric Keshin, regional director for North America. He will now have a straight reporting line to Dooner. (A year ago, Dru’s offer of a direct report to him was part of the reason Gosper left McCann to become president of TBWA’s New York Group.)

In a move related to the Gosper hire, Keshin was promoted to worldwide COO of McCann Worldgroup, creating room for Gosper to come in and lead New York. Keshin, 46, will oversee operations of Worldgroup’s five units, even as the four McCann Erickson offices continue to report to him.

“It’s very natural for Eric to take on more responsibility,” said Dooner, 57. “He’s ready to do that, but it leaves a lot of space for someone like Brett to come back and focus on New York.”

In addition to running New York, Gosper will work on multinationals such as L’Oréal and possibly Nestlé. McCann’s New York headquarters is more than twice the size of TBWA\C\D New York, with revenue of about $220 million from clients such as Wendy’s, Viagra and Staples and a staff of about 1,000. (TBWA’s New York Group has about 300 staffers and $90 million in revenue.)

McCann staffers embraced Gosper’s return, in part because previously he was viewed as a team builder, morale booster and key liaison to the creative department. “I hope to energize and motivate people when I get back to McCann,” Gosper said.

“He’s familiar with our people, our clients and the business,” Keshin said. “We can have an incredibly rapid advancement, more so than if we started over with someone new.”

Publicly, TBWA\C\D was mum on the subject of Gosper’s successor, but sources said the job would likely be filled internally. Under one scenario, Robert LePlae, 45, president and CEO of TBWA\ California, would shift to New York, albeit in a broader role, as head of North America, said sources. At the same time, New York-based Tom Carroll, 50, would remain vice chairman worldwide.

LePlae stepped up to the California job in May, enabling Carisa Bianchi, 46, to rise to president of the Playa del Rey, Calif., office. LePlae did not return calls, and an agency rep declined comment.