COO Gatfield to Exit Burnett

CHICAGO Leo Burnett worldwide chief operating officer Stephen Gatfield is leaving the agency, citing personal and family issues. He will serve as a consultant to the Publicis Groupe shop through the end of the year, according to an agency representative.

Gatfield in a statement said family and personal concerns are prompting his departure.

Earlier this year, Gatfield sold his Chicago-area house in order to return to his native London, fueling speculation that would leave the agency. He became worldwide chief operating officer of the shop in January 2001. At the same time, Bob Brennan was named president of the agency, with a focus on North America.

Gatfield’s position will not be filled and his duties will be assumed by members of Burnett’s global management team.

“We’d like to thank Steve for his many contributions over the years, especially for his commitment to building our international network and assistance in driving key global programs. His recent help on the integration of D’Arcy into Leo Burnett across Europe was invaluable, ensuring a smooth transition for our clients and our people,” agency chief executive Linda Wolf said in a statement. “We wish Steve every success.”

Prior to becoming chief operating officer, Gatfield,45, was managing director of the agency’s Asia-Pacific region. Some observers had predicted him as a possible successor to Wolf, 55, who has said she has no immediate plans to retire.

Gatfield began his career in Leo Burnett’s London office in 1981, training as an account planner. He left the agency in 1983 for a position at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, but rejoined Burnett in 1986. He was named managing director of Leo Burnett London in 1991 and promoted to chief executive of the office in 1993.