CEO Sophie Kelly Leaves The Barbarian Group

By Patrick Coffee 

Cheil Worldwide has parted ways with Sophie Kelly, CEO of The Barbarian Group, effective immediately. She will be replaced by Peter Kim, who joined the larger Cheil organization in Seoul, Korea last year as its first chief digital officer.

Today, a Cheil spokesperson told Adweek:

“After a series of leadership changes at Cheil headquarters … we have made the decision to transition the CEO role from Sophie Kelly to Peter Kim, ex-Chief Digital Officer at Cheil. We greatly appreciate the vision and passion Sophie Kelly brought to the agency during her four fruitful years and want to take this opportunity to thank her for her hard work in moving the agency forward.”


The changes mentioned in the quote above are not clear at the moment.

Kelly joined Barbarian as president in 2011, two years after Cheil (which also owns McKinney) purchased a majority stake in the agency. She was previously managing director of StrawberryFrog in New York and spent nearly a decade with JWT in Manhattan and her native Australia. She was promoted to the CEO position at Barbarian in 2013 as co-founder and chief executive Benjamin Palmer stepped up to become chairman.

Kim has held various leadership positions on both the agency and client sides in the states, working as a consultant at Razorfish and managing R/GA’s Austin office for a brief period in 2012. He also served as head of global marketing at Puma and worked as an analyst at Forrester Research and, before moving to Seoul in 2014, spent several years as a chief solutions architect at Austin-based startup advisory firm Dachis Group.

Regarding its plans for Barbarian moving forward, Cheil says:

“We are confident that this period of transition will be seamless for all parties involved. Under Peter’s direction and expertise, we look forward to a successful 2016.”

Cheil did not give us any specific reasons for the change. At this time, Palmer retains the chairman title at the agency he helped launch in 2001.