In Hunt for Perfect Pairs, FCB Irvine Taps Tracosas

Jon Tracosas, incoming president of Foote Cone & Belding in Irvine, Calif., has developed a reputation as a steady account handler, but he will have to focus on new business at a shop that hasn’t won anything in a year.

Tracosas, most recently evp and general manager at Havas’ Arnold in New York, joins Interpublic Group’s FCB on Dec. 1. He will report to Gene Bartley, FCB North America president and chief operating officer, and will lead the Irvine office with Bill Cimino, who was hired in July as executive creative director from DDB in Chicago. (Cimino replaced ex-ecd Holland Henton.)

Tracosas’ hiring is the latest in a series of management changes by the agency during the last year and a half that aims to create better partnerships between the presidents or CEOs and ecds of its regional offices, Bartley said.

Other moves include the March promotion of Dominic Whittles to president of the San Francisco office, the addition of San Francisco ecd Michael Prieve in December 2002 and the September 2002 appointment of Chicago ecd Tom O’Keefe to work with CEO Dana Anderson.

“It’s a tough business out there, and we need leaders who feel they can win, and that’s Tracosas,” said Bartley.

A football player and history major at Cornell University, Tracosas, 51, is the nephew of well-known adman George Lois. He spent much of his career in New York, starting as an account executive in the late 1970s at Ogilvy & Mather, where he met FCB CEO Brendan Ryan. He also worked at J. Walter Thompson, Lois USA and Deutsch, and prior to joining Arnold was evp and director of brand development at Doner in Southfield, Mich.

Tracosas was recruited by Arnold in January 2000, at a time when McDonald’s operators were expressing discontent with the shop, and he is credited with helping to solidify the business.

At FCB in Irvine, which has estimated 2002 billings of $300 million, Tracosas will lead an office whose accounts include Taco Bell, Hilton Hotels, Kawasaki Motors and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

“I want to understand who the people are who make this place run, get the hell out of the way if it’s working and mow down obstacles that prevent people from doing their best,” said Tracosas.

“Irvine is going to be a nimble, quick, opportunistic place,” said Bartley. “It should do a fair amount of below-the line opportunities. When the big opportunities come along, which is not as often as we’d like, it should be poised to win.”

The agency has been without a president since June, when Jim Harrington was reassigned to handle special projects for Bartley and Ryan. In September, Harrington joined independent O’Leary and Partners in Irvine as president.

Michael Harris, president of IPG’s Marketing Drive Worldwide in Boston, originally was slated to take over as president, but Harris, however, opted to stay at Marketing Drive.

Cimino and Tracosas share similar experiences—working with McDonald’s, a client Cimino dealt with at DDB—and interests in Greek and Roman history, the focus of Tracosas’ studies at Cornell.

“There was chemistry after we met each other, and I thought this could be a hell of a lot of fun,” said Tracosas. “I want to go to war with a guy that I really feel good about. It counts for a whole lot.”