Captain of Industry

Hours after handing the reins of Young & Rubicam to Mike Dolan, Ed Vick sounds like a huge weight has been lifted. “Oh my God, I can’t tell you,” he says with a laugh. Vick, who entered the Y&R fold in 1992 after holding top posts at Ammirati & Puris and Levine, Huntley, Vick & Beaver, is retiring after more than 30 years in the industry.

At Y&R alone, he held some half a dozen titles, including New York CEO, world wide COO and, finally, worldwide CEO. Now he hopes to spend more time with his family, on his new boat and with charitable causes, including the United Negro College Fund and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Oh, and he’s been approached about writing a book.

The 57-year-old hopes to be remembered as “a good leader who led by example”; as a suit who was “as good as judging creative work as most creative directors”; and as the architect of “teams that proceeded to fix companies,” such as Y&R New York and Ammirati. He also favored mottos, which lined his office walls: “Innovate or die,” “Warships carry no passengers” (a Churchill ism). As for a creative philosophy, he prefers the cynical “Figure out what sucks and don’t do that.” One more for good measure? “If you’re sitting on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

An ex-Navy commander with a no-nonsense, often bare-knuckles style, Vick had no desire to take a chairman emeritus role. “When you’re done, you’re done,” he says. Add that one to the wall.