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Roman Named New Chief of Ogilvy Group

February 06, 1988|BRUCE HOROVITZ

The giant advertising firm that has had just three leaders since it was founded 40 years ago by British advertising legend David Ogilvy, has named its fourth.

William E. Phillips, 58, plans to step down as chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy Group Inc. in May. Kenneth Roman, 57, who has been chairman of Ogilvy Group's largest operating company, will succeed Phillips in both posts. Roman will continue as chairman of Ogilvy & Mather.

"We're going to improve the quality of our creative work," said Roman, whose agency creates ads for American Express, General Foods and Mattel. "I'd like to see the agency move a little bit faster, and the product look a little brighter," said Roman, who is scheduled to take the helm at the annual shareholders meeting on May 17.

Advertising industry analysts say the change at the helm does not signify a shakeup of any sort at Ogilvy. Rather, they say, the change was expected for some time, and it spotlights Ogilvy as one of the few giant ad firms that is deep in talent at the top.

"It's neat to see a company with this kind of bench strength," said Alan J. Gottesman, analyst at the New York investment firm L. F. Rothschild & Co. "And it's very rare to see management with this kind of attitude. Phillips probably said to himself, 'Gosh, he's ready for the job. I'm ready to move on. Business is OK. So, let's do it.' That's a sign of strength and depth in a company."

"Clearly, Roman was the logical successor," said James D. Dougherty, analyst at the New York investment firm, County Securities Corp. USA. "There will not be any right hand turns. Ogilvy is a very well-run company."

Last year, however, the agency was the takeover target of former Ted Bates Worldwide executive John Hoyne. When the takeover attempt failed, the agency took several measures to combat future attempts at an unfriendly takeover.

Now, Roman says, the agency can concentrate on improving its creative product. And he said that he will continue to work personally with clients. This weekend, for example, he said he plans to meet with Mattel executives.

Phillips, meanwhile, will remain active with the company as chairman of its executive committee.

He said he also intends to pursue his mountain climbing interests. He just returned from a trip to Kenya, where he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of Outward Bound executives. "As we say in Outward Bound," he told agency members at the New York office on Friday, "We do what we want. We are what we do."

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