Johnson to Take Hiatus From TBWA Worldwide

Carl Johnson, chief operating officer at TBWA Worldwide, will step down in July for a yearlong hiatus.

He will remain on TBWA’s operating committee but will no longer head it. CEO Jean-Marie Dru will assume that role. Johnson’s COO duties will be shared by Dru (clients, acquisitions), president of the Americas Tom Carroll (clients) and chief financial officer Jon athan Ramsden (finances).

Johnson, a U.K. native who has been based here since 1999, will move to Sydney, Australia, with the intention of returning to New York one year later. He will be available to assist with acquisitions or new-business efforts in the Asia-Pacific region.

Johnson, 43, said he and his family (he has four young boys) need a break from the Manhattan grind. “A year is a long time in a child’s life,” Johnson said. “It’s not a very long time in an agency’s life.”

The news was hard to accept, Dru said, espe cially with the new management team (including Carroll and glo bal creative Lee Clow) gelling. “It was a nice fit,” he said. Dru tried to steer Johnson to Paris or London rather than leave for a year, but said he understands Johnson’s personal priorities.

Dru added he’s “99 percent sure [Johnson] will come back at a top level in the company.”

Johnson entered the fold of TBWA parent company Omnicom Group in 1997, after Omnicom bought Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson, a London shop he co-founded. After ex-TBWA executives Bob Kuperman and Michael Greenlees teamed with Johnson in an unsuccessful global pitch for Heinz, they persuaded him to take over the New York operation.

Johnson was promoted to COO last April. In his three years in New York, he installed a new management team, won more than $300 million in business—including Kmart’s $100 million account in 2000—and raised the agency’s profile. However, several of those new clients have left or evaporated, and the office is still trying to establish itself creatively.

Carroll, former president of TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., returned to New York in January, and Shona Seifert was installed as New York president last month.