HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL—Ron Culp, vice president of public relations and communication at Sears Roebuck & Company, is leaving the company. Director of corporate communications Bob Carr will take over leadership of the function on an interim basis while the company conducts a comprehensive search for a replacement.
Culp says he made the decision after turning 55 in December of 2002, and will leave after celebrating his tenth anniversary with the company and thus becoming eligible for full retirement benefits.
“Ten years is a long time in one place in this business,” he says. “I have a number of things I would like to do, and I’m going to take some time and consider my options.” Among those options: another corporate position, an opportunity in the agency world, or something entrepreneurial. “In 1976 I started a coffee store—the same year Starbucks was founded—and when I worked for Lilly I bought a newspaper and a weekly magazine. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial urge.”
He says he also plans to write a book about the “fascinating 100-year history of public relations at Sears,” including its role in building the Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard brands.
Culp joined the company in 1993 as vice president of public affairs for the Sears merchandise group and took over as senior corporate communications executive in 1995. Previously, he held corporate positions with Sara Lee, Pitney Bowes and Eli Lilly.
“I have worked with three CEOs during my time at Sears,” says Culp. “But I think the thing I am proudest of is building such a professional department. We had to totally restructure the department here. When I took over it was 100 people, and now we’re about 42 professionals, but at a more senior level. We do more things in terms of quantity and quality with the team we have now than we did then.”
One reason is that Culp consolidated the communications functions—formerly handled at the individual brand level—under one department. The public relations function at Sears now includes media relations, internal communications, community affairs and the Sears Roebuck Foundation, government affairs, and business communications.