Barton F. Graf Hires New CEO Away From Grey as 2 Longtime Partners Exit

Caroline Winterton formerly led Kellogg's, Walgreens and more

The incoming CEO also formerly led W+K's Jordan account. Barton F. Graf
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Today the independent and famously quirky New York agency Barton F. Graf announced major changes in its C-suite.

Grey New York partner, evp and global account director Caroline Winterton has joined the shop as its new CEO. Her predecessor and BFG co-founder Barney Robinson will depart along with fellow partner and chief strategy officer Laura Janness.

“I am very excited about this next chapter for Barton F. Graf with Caroline. She is the perfect complement to [executive creative director] Jeff Benjamin and myself,” said founder and chief creative officer Gerry Graf. “She has everything I’ve always looked for in a partner and CEO and, most importantly, she doesn’t put up with any of my crap.”

Winterton will begin the new role on May 7. According to an agency spokesperson, Robinson will stay with the shop for several weeks to manage operations, while Janness has already left for an unnamed new venture.

The incoming CEO spent almost six years with Grey, where she managed a portfolio of CPG accounts including Kellogg’s, Downy, Febreze and Walgreens. Earlier in her career, she held top account roles at agencies including TBWA\Chiat\Day, Ogilvy, Arnold and Wieden+Kennedy, where she managed Nike’s Jordan brand account.

Regarding today’s news, she said, “I couldn’t be more thrilled to start this new adventure with Gerry and his amazing team at Barton F. Graf. From the moment we started discussing his vision for the future and the opportunities ahead I knew it was absolutely the right thing. The work, the clients and the spirit of the agency have always inspired me from afar, and to be a part of it going forward is a huge honor. Can’t wait to start!”

Robinson helped start the shop in late 2011 after spending more than a decade as managing director at BBH New York, and Janness joined the following month.

“Gerry, Laura and I built an agency together. It is proudly creative and independent. Lots of people talk about doing this. Very few try it. Fewer still succeed,” he said in a statement. “Only those who’ve done it truly understand what it demands in terms of time, energy and sacrifice. After nearly seven years, it’s simply time to try something different. I look forward to seeing what Gerry, Caroline, David and Jeff do from here. We part ways with nothing but hard-won friendship and respect.”

Janness, who had been a strategist with Deutsch and GS&P prior to joining Graf, called her stint there “the most rewarding experience of my career.” She said, “I’m incredibly proud of the relationships we’ve forged, the talent we’ve recruited, the work we’ve launched and the lifelong memories we’ve created. Barton F. Graf is an independent, creative force that will continue to challenge long accepted category conventions. I will love this agency forever.”

In a final, personal note, Janness added: “I also want to use this as an opportunity to promise Pam Graf I remain committed to making sure Gerry is pointed in the right direction for your birthday every year.”

An agency spokesperson declined to elaborate on the departing partners’ future plans or the conditions of their exits.

BFG, which was named for founder Gerry Graf’s father, has earned a reputation for odd campaigns promoting brands like Little Caesar’s, Snyder’s of Hanover and Scotts Miracle-Gro in addition to stunts poking fun at other agencies and the ad world in general.

Winterton’s hire comes just over a year after Graf brought on former JWT North America CCO Jeff Benjamin to help lead its creative department. In January, the agency also hired Droga5’s David Cardinali in the head of integrated production role.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.