Retiring Fizdale: ‘It’s a Young Person’s Business’

Rick Fizdale is confident that, this time, his retirement will stick. “In the end, it’s a young person’s business,” Fizdale, 61, said last week. “There are better qualified and more contemporary people in the building now.”

Fizdale, the former Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO and current vice chairman of parent company Bcom3 Group, last week revealed his plan to retire from active agency management at the end of the year. It is not the first time Fizdale has planned to retire.

In 1997, his departure plans were thwarted by high-profile account losses and a management coup that saw Fizdale, who was then Burnett’s chairman, reclaim his title as CEO.

Fizdale set about reshaping the agency, implementing Burnett’s since-discarded “mini-agency” structure. Last year, he helped guide the Chicago-based shop to its merger with the MacManus Group and form the Bcom3 holding unit.

With the ship righted, Fizdale said he is confident he is leaving the shop in good hands.

“The integrity and thoughtfulness [that Bcom3 CEO Roger Haupt] has shown is amazing, and the team he announced [to run Burnett] is well composed,” said Fizdale, who will remain a vice chairman of Bcom3’s board.

Fizdale joined Burnett as a copywriter in 1969 and became chief creative officer in 1985. In 1992, he took the titles of chairman and CEO. He relinquished the latter title in 1993, then turned over the chief creative officer role to Michael Conrad (now worldwide creative director) in 1997 when he reclaimed the CEO post.

Last month, Burnett reset its global management, naming Linda Wolf chairman/CEO, Bob Brennan president and Stephen Gatfield chief operating officer.

Fizdale said he will likely keep a small office and phone line at Burnett and has no plans to move from the Chicago area. And he would like to return to school.