Howard Liszt will relinquish his title as chief executive officer of Campbell Mithun Esty at the end of the year to chairman Bill Dunlap, finalizing a power shift at the agency.
Liszt's departure had been expected since chief creative officer Jim White left the Minneapolis-based agency in September [Adweek, Sept. 20.]. Liszt will remain a consultant with the shop through 2000.
"That will be my 25th year at the agency," Liszt said. "I'd always looked at taking retirement earlier than some others."
Liszt, who will be 55 when he officially leaves next year, joined CME in 1976 and was named CEO in 1995.
"There's a limit to how long you want to work at that pace," he said. "And heading up an agency is not something you can cut back on."
Although Liszt said the decisions about his future were made by him alone, several sources said he was forced out by changes at the agency--primarily the consolidation of control with Dunlap. Dunlap could not be reached for comment.
That speculation was fueled by White's departure after only 15 months at the agency. White was viewed as a key Liszt hire, sources said.
Sources said some CME executives thought Liszt had begun to lose contact with key clients, including ConAgra, which moved $30 million worth of Healthy Choice business to Grey Advertising in New York late last year. The agency will also lose creative duties on Domino's $80 million national account at year's end.
During Liszt's tenure as CEO, CME has grown from $600 million in billings to $900 million-plus last year. The shop is currently putting together a new operating committee. K