Cohn & Wolfe CEO: “There Was Weak Talent Throughout The Organisation”
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Cohn & Wolfe CEO: “There Was Weak Talent Throughout The Organisation”

WPP PR agency Cohn & Wolfe has witnessed plenty of upheaval since its merger with GCI two years ago. CEO Donna Imperato sat down with the Holmes Report in New York to discuss how the agency is re-engineering its talent base following the replacement of a slew of executives. Imperato, who has led Cohn & Wolfe since 2002, also reveals which of the departures she misses most.

Paul Holmes

By Arun Sudhaman

NEW YORK: WPP PR agency Cohn & Wolfe has witnessed plenty of upheaval since its merger with GCI two years ago. CEO Donna Imperato sat down with the Holmes Report in New York to discuss how the agency is re-engineering its talent base following the replacement of a slew of executives, including UK CEO Fiona Noble, tech head Claudia Carasso, New York MD Stephanie Marchesi, and Spain chief Rose De La Pascua. Imperato, who has led Cohn & Wolfe since 2002, also reveals which of the departures she misses most.

A number of senior Cohn & Wolfe executives have been replaced over the past year. Why?

It’s been two years since the merger and it’s taken that long to evaluate the talent. It was a merger of equals, which is always tough, and the cultures were much more different than I thought they were. There was weak talent throughout the organisation. It’s been 18 months of evaluating the talent and I made most of the moves at the end of last year and beginning of this one.

How are you changing the firm’s talent profile?

We hired Michael Bayer as deputy MD in New York but I am still looking for an MD. It’s an opportunity to hire someone in a broader role, to oversee the region. Thankfully, [UK CEO] Scott Wilson can start soon. That was a big hole for me. I wish that we had made changes in our a UK leadership a lot sooner. I eagerly await Scott’s arrival [from Weber Shandwick].

How have the new additions, which also include healthcare head Mike Kan, digital practice leader Chad Latz and EVP John Hollywood, worked out so far?

This year has been the best year of new business in my history at Cohn & Wolfe. I feel the talent changes have proved the right moves. I have people who actually perform. People who have drive and ambition and connections. People who really know how to do new business and service clients. There were some real issues in the talent we have replaced that, in some cases, didn’t help our growth and – in some cases – actually damaged it.

Is there anyone you were sorry to see leave?

[Former senior director] Mark Cater [who quit the firm one year ago]. There are few people I miss when they leave. Mark Cater is one of them.

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