After seven years helping to build Staples' brand image, Phyllis Wasserman said she plans to leave the office supply chain on Sept. 30 for personal reasons.
"I know a lot of people won't understand my decision, but I feel it's the most important decision of my life," she said. "In marketing, we're all so aggressive to get to the top . . . but there comes a time when family has to come first."
Wasserman had been promoted this spring to senior vice president, overseeing all facets of the company's estimated $40 million ad account. She reports to Todd Krasnow, executive vice president of marketing, who said she would not be replaced.
The status of New York-based Cliff Freeman & Partners appears to be secure for now. No changes are planned in light of Wasserman's departure, Krasnow said.
However, the fate of media buying is still up in the air. Staples has been reviewing several shops, including the incumbent, Pro Media in Needham, Mass., for several months.
Krasnow declined to comment on the status of the competition. Wasserman gave Pro Media a vote of confidence: "It is still going on, but we haven't seen anything that would cause us to change [agencies]."
Wasserman said she would have left several months ago but stayed to coordinate marketing efforts during Staples' proposed buyout of Office Depot, a deal that was scuttled by the Federal Trade Commission. She declined to speculate on her professional future.
When she joined Staples, the chain had annual sales of about $350 million and 40 stores. Today, Staples has some 700 locations nationwide and last year posted revenues of nearly $4 billion.