Fizdale Decides Burnett Needs His Creative Touch — Hands Off Chief Executive Job to Bill Lynch; Agency Bigwigs Deny Rumors of a Rift

CHICAGO – In a move that rocked the ad community and ran somewhat counter to Leo Burnett’s usual seamless transitions of the past, chairman Rick Fizdale last week relinquished his ceo title to agency president Bill Lynch last week – 14 months after being named chairman, ceo and chief creative officer.
Although Fizdale said no single event or client pushed him into making the choice, his commitment to creative troubleshooting, rather than account-side management, may have played a major role in his decision. Fizdale, who generally shies away from publicity, was the first creative to be named to the ceo post since Leo Burnett. The agency usually pairs an account type in the ceo role with a creative.
‘From the beginning I had reservations whether I could do all three jobs,’ Fizdale said. ‘I had made the decision last year that I would give up one of the titles. Late in the fall, I decided to give up the ceo title.’
Still, some insiders question, since there was really no precedent, why Fizdale was given both chief creative and ceo titles when he took over for retired chairman Hall ‘Cap’ Adams in 1992. Lynch said it was the function of having only one of the two top managers retiring at the time.
‘I don’t think anyone should be ceo and chief creative officer at this agency, just as I don’t think anyone should be ceo and chief financial officer,’ Fizdale said.
Both Fizdale and Lynch deny any kind of power struggle led to the shift, or that Leo Burnett’s board of directors had pushed for a change in titles.
‘This is his initiative, not mine,’ Lynch said. ‘There were no problems that brought this on. And I don’t really care about the title.’
Both also deny published reports that creative on businesses such as Oldsmobile or Miller Lite played a role in the move. In an internal memo on Friday, Fizdale said that he and Lynch are ‘different people with different backgrounds, skills and ways of working,’ suggesting to some insiders that Fizdale was not comfortable in his role as the main client handler. ‘I tend to immerse myself in one or two major projects at a time, frequently working at home, almost to the exclusion of all else. That’s how IPAC (Integrated planning and communications) and Olds were handled, with Bill offering valuable counsel, ready to jump into the action.’
Fizdale also said that he had been out of the country to one of the agency’s other offices only one time in the last year. ‘A ceo here cannot do that.’
Lynch said there may be some more ‘tweaking’ of the management team in the coming weeks, most likely to fill some of the duties that Lynch handled.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)