PALM DESERT, CALIF. Charles D. Peebler Jr., retired chairman emeritus of True North Communications and the former chief executive officer of Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, died after a long illness on April 18 at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. Peebler, who in his 60s was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare and invariably fatal brain disorder, was 72.
Known as "Chuck," the Waterloo, Iowa, native began his advertising career in 1958 at Bozell & Jacobs in Omaha, Neb., and became the firm's president in 1965. He went on to serve as Bozell & Jacobs' chief executive for more than 30 years, growing the small, family-owned Midwestern agency, with billings of barely $20 million, into a New York-based marketing communications company with offices in more than 50 countries. By 1997, after mergers and acquisitions, the company known as Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt had billings of $4.3 billion. In December of that year, True North Communications acquired BJK&E and Peebler was named president of the merged company. Peebler remained president until April 1999, when he became chairman emeritus. The Interpublic Group later acquired True North. Peebler and his employees shared the benefits from the sale of BJK&E and about 70 of those staffers became millionaires.
"Chuck Peebler was one of the best, not just as an adman, but as a man," recalls Steve Centrillo, former CEO of FCB, which was a True North unit. "I started working for Chuck when I was 18 and ran a copy machine at Bozell & Jacobs, New York. I wound up spending almost two decades there and worked with Chuck in many capacities. He was a professional role model and the way he handled the challenge of PSP made him a personal one as well."
Peebler's advertising peers inducted him into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2001.
Peebler completed his career as a founder of Plum Capital, an investment fund in the new media arena. After his diagnosis with PSP, he founded and served as president of the Peebler PSP Research Foundation, which funded more than $2 million of research in the disease. He also served as a member of the board for the Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.
Peebler was chairman of the American Craft Museum, known now as the Museum of Arts & Design, and helped it secure a new building in 1986. He also served on the boards of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Advertising Council, the American Advertising Federation and as chair of the Professionals in Advertising Political Action Committee. Peebler served on a number of corporate boards, most recently with Meredith Corp., Valmont Industries, Hotlink and Eos International.
Peebler often stated "we need to pay rent for the space that we occupy on Earth," contributing to a large number of nonprofit organizations. He was a board member of organizations such as the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce, the Corporate Committee for Central Park Conservancy and was a longtime board member of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.
Peebler attended Drake University and served on the university's board of trustees.
Upon retirement, Peebler and his family moved to Palm Desert, Calif., where he served on the boards of the Eisenhower Medical Center, the McCallum Theatre and the Eldorado Country Club.
Peebler is survived by his wife, Toni Worley Peebler, their son Todd, two older sons from a previous marriage, David and Mark, and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not been determined yet.
Toni Peebler has requested that contributions be sent to The Peebler Research Foundation, 74-923 Highway 111, PMB 226, Indian Wells, CA, 92210.