We Hear: Ongoing Wave of Executive Departures at The Barbarian Group

By Patrick Coffee 

Multiple sources tell us that a series of high-ranking Barbarian Group employees are in the process of negotiating their pending departures from the Cheil Worldwide agency.

The details of the ongoing exodus have yet to be revealed, but we hear that the leaders of several departments will be among those who leave prior to a restructuring announcement scheduled for later this week/month.

The tips began coming in on Friday and listed the heads of a few departments among those who plan to resign. The only departure that can be confirmed at this time is that of chief strategy officer Ian Daly, who we hear was dismissed several weeks ago for reasons related to his specific position. (He was hired by now-former CEO Sophie Kelly last summer along with head of operations Darren Himebrook after leading strategy at TBWA\Media Arts Lab.)


Daly’s move was, of course, overshadowed by that of chairman and agency co-founder Benjamin Palmer, who we hear was strongly encouraged to step down by Cheil executives before he announced his plans to leave in March.

That news came approximately three months after Cheil replaced Kelly with Peter Kim, who assumed the role of CEO after serving as chief digital officer at holding company headquarters in Seoul. As we hear it, a perceived tension between agency and holding company has characterized the period following Kelly’s December departure. (Cheil became a majority shareholder of the agency in 2011.)

A Barbarian Group spokesperson declined to comment for this post, but we believe that we will have more information on the organizational shift by the end of this week.

Based on what we’ve heard, it’s safe to say that the agency emerging from this latest round of changes will not look quite like the one we’ve known up to this point.