Longtime Wieden + Kennedy exec Buz Sawyer has reemerged in the business, taking on the job of chief executive officer at Cheil N.A., the North American outpost of Korea’s largest agency. Last March, Sawyer, who has worked at Wieden for the better part of 20 years, left his role as managing director of the agency’s New York office.
In making the announcement, Cheil described the hire as a move at “jump-starting its business activity in the U.S. market,” a tacit acknowledgment of the company’s virtually invisible profile in the States. Sawyer, who starts the job in mid-January, replaces Michael Kim as Cheil's CEO N.A. Seoul-based Cheil is a unit of Samsung Group.
In a statement, Cheil Worldwide CEO Nackhoi Kim said: “The U.S. market is very important to us. Since the acquisition of The Barbarian Group in December 2009, we have been proactive in making our U.S. operation into a highly competitive global agency, and we are preparing to make some very bold moves in the U.S.”
Sawyer first joined the Portland, Ore., office of Wieden in 1990 as a management supervisor on Nike. In 1992, he was among six executives who opened the shop's first international office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He assumed the role of managing director there and remained for six years before accepting an offer to run the San Francisco office of Interpublic Group's Lowe. Lowe closed that office in May 2001, paving the way for Sawyer's return to Wieden.
Earlier in his career, he held account management posts at BBDO and N.W. Ayer, both in New York.
In addition to the acquisition of digital shop The Barbarian Group, Cheil took a stake in London creative shop Beattie McGuinness Bungay in late 2008 and opened a BMB office in New York last year. In early 2008, Cheil hired London adman Bruce Haines to create and grow an international marketing services network. Haines, a former group CEO of Leo Burnett London, was named Cheil’s president, global chief operations officer.