Grey Confirms Heekin as Global CEO

NEW YORK Jim Heekin has finalized a deal to join WPP Group’s Grey Worldwide as chairman and CEO, effective Sept. 6, the agency confirmed.

Heekin, 56, will succeed Ed Meyer, 78, who has held that title since 1970. Meyer remains CEO of parent Grey Global Group, with operating companies such as Grey Direct, G2, GCI, Grey Interactive and Alliance reporting to him. Meyer’s contract with WPP runs through 2006. Heekin reports to Meyer.

“I’ve wanted to hire Jim for a couple of years and came very close two years back,” said Meyer. “This is one of those chances in life that you get to revisit.”

Meyer went on to note that Heekin’s major agency and account experience, as well as his general standing and stature in the advertising industry, made him the best choice to lead Grey.

Besides, Meyer added, “He lives five blocks from Grey and was born in Cincinnati,” a reference to the headquarters of Grey’s largest client, Procter & Gamble.

“Grey is a consummate global business and a consistently strong, good agency,” Heekin said. “As long as Ed is here, I want to take advantage of everything he knows.”

Talks between Grey and Heekin had been taking place for several weeks and the move was expected [Adweek Online, July 12].

Heekin had been worldwide CEO of Havas’ Euro RSCG from January 2004 until late July, when he resigned.

He joined the French-owned ad agency in October 2003 as its president and COO, eight months after being dismissed from his worldwide CEO job at Interpublic Group’s McCann WorldGroup amid an inquiry by the SEC into McCann’s accounting practices stemming from the mid-1990s.

Meyer has long sought Heekin for a top position at the agency and came close to hiring him as his successor in the summer of 2003. During that time, then-Grey New York president Steve Blamer, Meyer’s longtime heir apparent, was being courted by IPG.

But Blamer stayed and was promoted to CEO of Grey North America, a position he resigned from in January 2005 to join IPG’s Foote Cone & Belding as worldwide CEO.