Ron Bess said scouting potential acquisitions, domestically as well as overseas, will be a major function of his new role at Foote, Cone & Belding.
Bess, who has been president of FCB's office here for the past two years, was elevated to the vacant post of worldwide president of the agency. He reports to Brendan Ryan, FCB's New York chairman.
"It was clear that [demands on] time and personal attention required to run a growing global network are more than can be asked of one person," Bess said. "The tasks need more management depth, and I guess I'm that depth."
Bess will continue to work closely with global client S.C. Johnson & Son, handled out of Chicago, and with such multi-office clients as Taco Bell and AT&T Wireless. He will also work with Ryan, he said, to facilitate intra-office cooperation on new business pitches, he said.
Succeeding Bess as president of the Chicago office is Brian Williams, previously an executive vice president at Leo Burnett. There he headed one of the mini-agencies Burnett has created, overseeing clients Beef Council, Dairy Management, Dean Witter, Discover & Co., Hallmark and Kraft.
"I think I've worked on one-third of Burnett's client roster, so the move to FCB, overseeing a number of clients, won't be that great a shift," said Williams, who began his career at Burnett 23 years ago.
"You have to be impressed with the manner and speed with which [FCB] has grown in the past few years," Williams said. "It's reassuring. It tells me it is on the right track."
Billings at FCB's Chicago office have jumped from $600 million two years ago to $1 billion last year, and staff has grown from 400 to 750. That staff growth will likely mean FCB parent True North's corporate staff (including chief executive officer Bruce Mason) will move to other quarters, perhaps by the end of the year.
Bess said Williams' mandate is simply to maintain the office's forward momentum. "I believe we're in a great position to keep moving ahead," Bess said.