NEW YORK Omnicom Group said vice chairman Tom Watson is retiring from the communications holding company, effective Jan. 1.
Watson will continue in his role, however, as dean of Omnicom University through 2005. The program offers leadership courses for senior management at Omnicom operating companies.
In a memo to staffers at Omnicom-owned companies, president and CEO John Wren praised Watson's dedication and contributions to the company over the years, saying, "I've never seen Tom Watson get tired. I know of no one who has worked with greater energy, greater dedication, or a greater willingness to help."
Watson, 70, joined BBDO in 1966, 20 years before Omnicom Group was formed. In 1986, when DDB Needham and BBDO joined to form Omnicom, Watson moved into the holding company as president and chief operating officer of the Diversified Agency Services group.
He spent the next 10 years helping to shape the company's integrated marketing services capabilities through acquisitions and the establishment of various firms.
DAS now has 160 companies in 71 countries. Rapp Collins, Integer and Ketchum are among the companies that comprise DAS. In 1997, Watson began to focus more on tasks associated with the holding company, especially its talent development initiatives.
Watson began his career in 1958 at Abbott Laboratories. An Omnicom representative said he would not be replaced.