Paster Accepts New Role at WPP; Taaffe Named CEO at H&K
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Paster Accepts New Role at WPP; Taaffe Named CEO at H&K

Paul Taaffe has been promoted to chairman and chief executive of Hill & Knowlton, succeeding Howard Paster, who is moving on to take a new position as executive vice president at WPP Group, where he will be responsible for all PR interests.

Paul Holmes

NEW YORK—Paul Taaffe has been promoted to chairman and chief executive of Hill & Knowlton, succeeding Howard Paster, who is moving on to take a new position as executive vice president at WPP Group, where he will be responsible for all the holding company’s public relations interests.
 
WPP owns four full-service public relations firms—Burson-Marsteller, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton, and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide—as well as corporate communications consultancy Robinson Lerer Montgomery, U.K. financial communications specialists Finsbury and Buchanan Communications, lobbying shop Timmons & Company, and public affairs and research firm Penn Schoen & Berland.
 
“When I joined WPP, there were three public relations firms,” says Howard Paster. “But with the acquisitions we have made over the past few years, especially Young & Rubicam, we now have eight firms. WPP wants to nurture those businesses. We don’t want to stifle their entrepreneurial spirit, but we want to be able to help them with strategy, and to think through positioning and other big issues.”
 
Paster said one reason he accepted the position was that he will still be able to work on client business, and he intends to play an active role on accounts including Motorola, American Express, and BT.
 
Taaffe, meanwhile, will step into a role for which he has been groomed for several years. A native Australian and former head of H&K’s U.K. operations, will remain based in H&K’s New York office. He also heads the firm’s worldwide executive committee.
 
Taaffe was named chief executive of H&K U.K. in 1990, moving up to president of Hill and Knowlton’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region in 1994, and ultimately being named president and CEO of two of the firm’s five regions. Before joining H&K, Taaffe was managing director of Shandwick Consultants where he was responsible for financial public relations, corporate and business-to-business communications programs.
 
“I am grateful to Howard Paster for reinvigorating H&K into the great communications consultancy it is today,” said Taaffe. “My challenge is to bring to the table the added value of Hill and Knowlton know-how at a time when openness and transparency are the threshold by which companies must operate effectively.”
 
Taaffe says one priority will be figuring out changes in the agency business, in particular shifting demand for the consultancy and execution sides of the business.
 
“I leave H&K in the best of hands,” said Paster.  “An immediate advantage of Paul’s appointment is that he is already a key player in the system, deeply familiar with the firm’s capabilities and talent base.  Additionally, as a high-level business strategist, Paul is widely respected by clients and colleagues around the globe for his counsel and expertise.”
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