Last week, however, Houghton returned to familiar territory as the new president of Leo Burnett U.S.A., filling the post left by the departure of Ted Bell to Young & Rubicam. Houghton downplayed speculation that he left Riney because of any rift.
'I'm sure there was speculation because I was only there for eight months,' said the 55-year-old Houghton. 'Frankly, it took me about a month to decide. I went back and forth on it. There wasn't a problem between us. I came back basically because Leo Burnett offered me the job.'
Although Houghton rose through the ranks early in his career on the creative side, he will mainly work on managing the domestic business reporting to Burnett's North America chief Jim Jenness. He will be paired with Bob Welke, newly named chief creative officer of Burnett USA.
Houghton's departure from San Francisco appears to have put the reins of the shop back into the hands of its mercurial founder and once again left unanswered the question of a successor for Riney.
Newly named Riney managing director David Verklin, along with national creative director Joe O'Neill, evp/corporate development John Yost and Barry Krause, senior vp/managing director of the Chicago office, will report directly to Riney, as will cfo Lyn Muegge, though she will have line responsibilities to Verklin for S.F. office matters.
Burnett president/ceo Bill Lynch, who took the top reins earlier this year, has been slowly fine-tuning his management team. Houghton's return marks the end of a six-month executive realignment shuffle, that aligns Burnett's top tier more globally with its clients.
'We've finally finished,' said Lynch last week. 'This is the final piece of the puzzle. It fills a key management role.'
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)