JWT’s Search for Chicago President Leads to Krause

After a four-month search, J. Walter Thompson has landed a president for its Chicago office, naming Publicis New York CEO Barry Krause to the position on Friday.

At press time, Krause was expected to sign a contract with JWT. He was named chairman and CEO of Publicis in New York in September, following the merger of the agency’s Chicago and New York offices. JWT wanted to bring in someone familiar with the Chicago ad landscape, and Krause fits the bill: For more than 10 years he led Publicis Chicago, which had been a Hal Riney & Partners outpost, and before that he spent 15 years at Leo Burnett.

Although the length of JWT’s search was not unusual for such a high-level position, the process extended well beyond the expected time frame. JWT North America president Bob Jeffrey’s original goal was to have someone in place by the end of last year.

The ongoing vacancy had fostered a “sense of unease” in the office, with some wondering whether JWT Chicago was considered “a scary place” to work, a source said.

Earlier last week, DDB Chicago president of integration Pat Dermody turned down an offer for the job, according to sources. JWT had pursued Krause and Dermody on “parallel paths,” a source said.

Jeffrey talked with a number of outside executives about the post, including Young & Rubicam’s Chicago president, Kary McIlwain; Foote, Cone & Belding’s Chicago CEO, Dana Anderson; and Euro RSCG Tatham Partners CEO Gary Epstein, according to sources.

The search began in September, when Brian Heffernan resigned under pressure after four years of mediocre new-business results. Jeffrey, commuting regularly between New York and Chicago, has been running the office since then with ecd Rick Kemp.

Krause takes over an office that needs to shore up relations on key accounts. JWT lost an assignment from flagship client Kraft Foods to FCB last year, and was only partially successful in defending its Miller Genuine Draft business, which it now shares with fellow WPP shop Ogilvy & Mather. The agency is in the midst of defending Miller’s Foster’s beer business.

The office claims $600 million in billings, with almost half of that from Kraft Foods and Miller. Its other clients include Blockbuster, Western Union, Salton and Unilever.

The influence of Kraft and the office’s “second city” status to JWT’s New York headquarters were thought to have affected the search, according to sources. One source likened the job to being the general manager of a field office, with most important decisions for Kraft made out of New York. “Who wants to put up with that?” the source said.

Filling such a position is always complex and can take anywhere from 90 days to nine months, said Chris Larsen of the Larsen Group, a recruiting firm in Rocky Mountain, N.C. Larsen offered a frank assessment of the JWT position: “Most talented people would be leery of that office because it has an old-agency reputation and is not as hip as other agencies.”

Linda Garrison, co-managing director of Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago, expressed surprise only that JWT was able to fill the post so soon. Her office took nearly a year to hire a chief creative officer, eventually landing Joe Sciarrotta, Garrison’s co-managing director.

“It’s a difficult task, and good solid leaders are few and far between,” Garrison said.

Kemp was brought in from JWT Toronto in April 2002 to replace Dennis Ryan following a search that took five months to complete.

Handling Kraft while attempting to build the agency through new business makes the job a difficult one, sources said. One source summed up the stakes for JWT in filling the post: “They can’t be wrong.”

Krause has been keen to move back to Chicago, sources said. Publicis New York has undergone sweeping changes of late, inheriting several accounts, including Procter & Gamble brands, after Publicis Groupe closed D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.