New-Business Leader Leaves Hill, Holliday

NEW YORK Brian Carty, president of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos here and leader of the agency’s national new-business efforts, has left to pursue “new opportunities,” a shop representative confirmed.

Though several sources said the Boston-based agency had grown disenchanted with its meandering new-business progress in 2005, a Hill, Holliday rep said Carty, 55, left of his own volition.

Carty said it was “unequivocally not the case” that he was dismissed. As for new employment opportunities, he said there were no specific positions he is now pursuing.

“We recalibrated our new-business engine to figure out how to win consistently,” Carty said. “Ideally in new business you get $100 million home runs. We deliberately decided to hit a series of singles.”

Hill, Holliday closed out last year on a positive note, adding the $60 million Liberty Mutual account in October, prevailing over Arnold, Euro RSCG and Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. It also won the $30 million-plus E-Loan media account in its San Francisco office last January. Victories elsewhere were small, however, and included HIP Health Plan of New York, the Cleveland Clinic, and assignments from the United States Tennis Association and Blue Man Group, worth an estimated $25 million-plus combined.

The shop came up short elsewhere, including the $70 million Lipitor, $55 million American Express Financial Advisors (Ameriprise), $40 million SunTrust and $20 million Harris Direct reviews.

Chairman Jack Connors, 63, who co-founded the agency in 1968, said he would retire at year’s end, a year before his IPG contract is set to expire [Adweek Online, Nov. 19].

Several sources, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said they expect more Hill, Holliday executives to leave before Connors’ exit, either of their own accord or otherwise.

Hill, Holliday rep Greg Winter said no major departures were forthcoming, and he asserted that the agency’s two most senior day-to-day managers—CEO Mike Sheehan and Boston president Karen Kaplan—are aboard for the long haul. (Neither Sheehan nor Kaplan was available for comment, Winter said.)

Some high-level changes have already taken place in recent months, most notably the December retirement of COO and CFO Joe Norberg, a 20-year agency veteran. Brian Whipple, evp and director of relationship marketing, assumed the COO mantle, with CFO responsibilities handed to former Avedis Zildjian financial chief Kevin Walsh. At the same time, Kristi Argyilan, evp of Hill, Holliday’s media group, was named general manager, a slot that had been vacant for two years.

Winter said no new president would be named in New York, adding that Carty had essentially focused more on new business than office management for more than a year, though he is still listed on Hill, Holliday’s Web site as its New York president. Kaplan will now take over as lead new-business executive while retaining her Boston president’s duties, Winter said.

“Brian has made significant contributions to the Hill, Holliday network for more than a decade,” said Sheehan, in a statement. “After leading a number of successful new-business pitches over the past six months, he decided the time was right to go out on a high note. It’s a decision I both respect and admire.”

Carty had been evp, corporate development at Hill, Holliday in San Francisco before being named New York president in October 2002. He became its third leader in six years.

Hill, Holliday’s overall estimated billings and revenue have been basically flat in recent years, improving about 3 percent to $1 billion and $150 million in 2004, compared to the previous year. Sources said billings and revenue likely improved about 5 percent in 2005.

—with Andrew McMains