Beaven Follows Gerster as Initiative’s CEO

NEW YORK Alec Gerster, global chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group’s Initiative, will retire March 1. His successor is Richard Beaven, the shop’s North American CEO, the agency has confirmed.

Gerster joined Initiative in 2002 after a 30-year career at Grey Global, where he last served as CEO of Grey’s MediaCom unit.

Beaven was hired in 2006 and has overseen an 18-month growth spurt during which close to $2 billion in new business has migrated to the shop’s North American client roster, topped by this month’s $800 million Hyundai/Kia win. Initiative is currently finalizing a Los Angeles team to handle that business. The Hyundai/Kia team’s lead executive, newly hired evp Fred Sattler, will continue to report directly to Beaven.

Other key wins of late include $140 million this month from Cadbury Schweppes U.S. Beverages and various assignments from Bayer, Big Lots, Quiznos, Coors and Kao Brands.

Gerster said he approached IPG in late 2007 “to say that we have a great team in place, things are really beginning to click and it’s beginning to feel like a great time for me to pass the baton to Richard.”

Gerster said he had no plans to work for another media shop but would likely consult or go to work full-time for one of several companies developing enhanced digital television systems. Talks to do so are not far along, he said, because his focus has been getting Initiative in order. But those conversations will accelerate, he said, now that the executive transition at the agency is in place.

U.K. native Beaven joined Initiative from Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest USA, where he was evp, managing director in charge of the Procter & Gamble communications planning account. Before that, he was svp, managing director on the Coca-Cola account at MediaVest.

Beaven said he planned to name his North American successor in about a week.

The shop’s worldwide headquarters will remain in New York, he said, “although I guess I will be on a plane a little more. But the real issue for me is less about where headquarters is and more about how we share information and connect [throughout the global network]. In today’s world it is easier to do that.”

Going forward, he said, “I am looking to build on the success we have had as a team here in North America—and also to see where else we’ve had success and figure out how to leverage that [in other regions]. The game is changing so fast and the situation is highly competitive. There are different challenges in different regions and we’ll be addressing that as we go forward.”