Hill, Holliday Chair to Retire After ’06

BOSTON Jack Connors, co-founder of Interpublic Group’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos here, will step down as chairman at the end of 2006, the agency has confirmed.

Connors, 63, has been gradually turning over control of the shop to other managers in the past few years, having named Mike Sheehan CEO in 2003.

The executive renewed his contract with IPG three years ago, and his impending departure at the close of 2006 will come a year sooner than expected.

An agency representative called Connors’ move to step down a personal, family-driven decision, but did not elaborate. Connors could not immediately be reached for comment.

Connors co-founded the shop in 1968. The agency grew steadily through the 1970s and 1980s, crafting noteworthy campaigns for clients such as John Hancock Financial Services, Infiniti luxury cars and Wang Laboratories, which at one time was a high-flying computer maker and software concern.

Connors sold the shop in 1998 to New York-based IPG in a deal valued in excess of $75 million.

After a growth surge in the late 1990s, agency billings leveled off in recent years and hover around $1 billion. Estimated revenue improved 3 percent last year to approximately $150 million. Top clients include Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS and Liberty Mutual. The latter was added following a review last month.

Connors became a legendary figure in local business circles. He is known for building exceptionally strong and long-lasting client relationships, and for making Hill, Holliday one of the most progressive regional employers, offering benefits such as on-site daycare and liberal personal-leave policies.

He remains active in many local civic organizations and serves as chairman of Partners HealthCare.