The first step of a long-term succession plan at Rick Johnson & Co. took root with three management officials attaining part ownership in the Albuquerque, N.M., agency.
Chairman Rick Johnson said last week the sale is part of a plan to eventually turn his agency over to a team of successors. He and his wife, president Deborah Johnson, still retain control and have no immediate plans for retirement or a buyout, said Johnson.
Assuming new titles and principal status are executive vice president James McKenna, senior vice president of client services Pamela Schneider and senior vice president and chief administrative officer Marge White.
"They are very different people, but they do function really well as a team," said Rick Johnson.
McKenna, hired three years ago as a senior vice president while serving in a similar post at what is now DavisElen Advertising in Los Angeles, retains the top account role. Schneider moves into McKenna's post after being vice president and account supervisor, while White progresses from vice president of finance.
McKenna said the deal cemented a long-standing agreement giving him an equity opportunity.
"That was one of the earliest discussions I had with Rick and Debbie," said McKenna, who also worked for Foote, Cone & Belding in Los Angeles. "At this stage, having done this for 20 years, I was looking to participate in the agency . . . I felt all the experience I had accumulated at national agencies had prepared me."
The deal does not stipulate the trio will eventually complete a buyout, nor preclude outside sources from later purchasing controlling interest in the 20-year-old shop.
Schneider is the agency's longest-serving employee, working at Rick Johnson & Co. since 1979. White joined the shop in 1993.
The three will serve on the board of directors with the Johnsons, as well as help oversee a new employee stock ownership plan being implemented for qualified staffers.