TL Chairman Moves To Rapp

Gary VonKennel, who calls his leadership style “direct but humane,” hopes to instill that quality and his affinity for the sector into his new role as Rapp Collins’ chairman and CEO.

“I bring energy and a different leadership style [to Rapp]—I love new business,” said the 55-year-old executive, who most recently served as both chairman of Omnicom Group’s Tracy Locke Partnership in Dallas and president and CEO of sibling U.S. Marketing & Promotions in Torrance, Calif.

VonKennel will split his time between Rapp’s 450-person Dallas office, the Omnicom shop’s largest, and its New York headquarters, which has about 130 staffers. Rapp’s New York clients include the Alzheimer’s Association and Mercedes-Benz; the Dallas office’s largest clients are Hyatt Hotels and DirecTV.

VonKennel, who has a degree in English from the University of Kentucky, succeeds Malcolm Speed at the direct shop. Speed retired earlier this month after five years as CEO, the agency said.

Prior to TL, VonKennel spent 13 years at Dallas promotions shop Multi-Dimension Marketing, which he opened in 1986 with his wife, Jane. There, the pair laid down several rules, such as not talking about business at home. “[We worked] incredibly well together,” said VonKennel.

The Chillicothe, Ohio, native became chairman and CEO of TL, part of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services unit, after Omnicom acquired Multi-Dimension in 1999 and absorbed it into TL. He relinquished CEO duties last April.

“Gary is a no-nonsense leader who makes things happen,” said Bob Chimbel, president of TL. “He’s like a lightning rod.”

Multi-Dimension was VonKennel’s second startup. He launched the Promotional Services Group, a subsidiary of TL in Dallas, in 1981. PSG eventually was absorbed into TL.

A father of two, VonKennel enjoys spending time with his wife of nearly 34 years. While he also has teacher certification, he never has taught classes. “I had to get a real job and make some money,” he said.