Chairman Benjamin Palmer Leaving The Barbarian Group After 14 Years

By Patrick Coffee 

Cheil Worldwide and Barbarian Group chairman Benjamin Palmer announced this morning that he will be leaving the agency he co-founded 14 years ago.

The news first came via a post on Palmer’s Instagram page:

Benjamin Palmer note

His departure follows that of former Barbarian Group CEO Sophie Kelly by three months.

Kelly joined the shop as president ten years after its founding in 2011 and got promoted to the chief executive position in 2013 as Palmer (who had been CEO from the start) became chairman.

Cheil Worldwide, which purchased a majority stake in Barbarian in 2009, then replaced Kelly with Peter Kim, who previously served as chief digital officer at Cheil’s Seoul headquarters. The holding company has been making big changes at its stateside agencies including McKinney in recent months, and Palmer’s departure was not completely unexpected.

From Kim’s all-staff email:

As you may know, after 14 years as a Barbarian, Ben Palmer is moving on to further explore life and adventure beyond the walls of our agency.

The Barbarian Group wouldn’t be here without Ben and his efforts to create our forward thinking, tech-focused shop. Today, we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible on the Internet and that’s apparent in the work we’re doing today — you’ll see some new examples at the all hands this afternoon.  Our Barbarian culture of great people and great work will continue. Our core values of technology, culture, empathy and creativity still stand strong.

We are called “The Barbarian Group,” because Barbarians are impossible to defeat. Ben’s infectious enthusiasm and intelligent creativity are officially separating from the Superdesk, but that spirit will never be defeated.

For now, I wish Ben the best and I know we’re all excited to see what magic he makes next in whatever form.

Thanks, Ben

Sources tell us that, while Palmer’s exit did not come as a surprise, it was not a mutual decision. He has not been directly involved in the agency’s operations for several months, but Barbarian has continued to create work under chief creative officer Edu Pou. It has, for example, made various hires and promotions while producing integrated campaigns for clients like Crystal Pepsi (the relaunch) GE (the drones) IBM (the Runkeeper spot) and Brisk (an Adult Swim-style campaign focused on video games and late-night TV).

In addition to leading Barbarian Group, which he co-founded with five others in 2001, Palmer has also served as president of The Art Directors Club and sits on the board of New York performance space The Kitchen. Beyond his agency’s campaigns, its Cannes stunts and its famous 4,400 square foot SuperDesk, Palmer has also been known for throwing very good rooftop parties and hanging out with celebrities outside the ad agency world.

Cheil does not plan to hire a new chairman to replace him moving forward.