Seltzer Steps Down at Ogilvy; Silverman Named CEO
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Seltzer Steps Down at Ogilvy; Silverman Named CEO

Bob Seltzer, who took over as chief executive of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in 1997, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities. Marcia Silverman, a 20-year veteran of the firm, will succeed him in the top role.

Paul Holmes

NEW YORK—Bob Seltzer, who took over as chief executive of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in 1997, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities. Marcia Silverman, a 20-year veteran of the firm, who most recently was president of its Americas region, will succeed him in the top role.
 
Seltzer presided over the most dramatic growth in Ogilvy’s history. The firm had fee income in 1996 of less than $50 million but more than tripled in size over the next three years—thanks in large part to its acquisition of technology PR specialist Alexander Communications—recording worldwide revenues of $170 million in 2000.
 
But 2001 hit the firm harder than most because of its heavy exposure in the tech sector, and revenues declined to around $146 million.
 
As to whether Ogilvy erred in buying so heavily into the technology boom, Seltzer refuses to second guess himself. “Did we get hit worse in 2001 than some of our peers, because we were so heavy in tech? Without question. Could I have decided in 1997 not to get into the technology business? I could not have made that decision.”
 
Despite the firm’s growth under his leadership, Seltzer says his proudest achievement was turning Ogilvy “from a group of disparate offices into a true, working network. When I got here there was very little interplay between the offices. They shared a name but little else. There was always great work being done at Ogilvy, but it was not consistent because of the some of the inter-office issues.”
 
One of Seltzer’s first acts on taking over was to change the agency’s name, adapting the Ogilvy brand and jettisoning the Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart legacy, and to create a vision and values designed to unify the firm. He says he would like to do that again.
 
“The last 20 months of bad economic times have made me realize that what I really enjoy doing is growing a business,” he says. “I’d like to have the opportunity to do that—to take a place and give it a vision and help build it—one more time.” He doesn’t have any offers, he says, and acknowledges that some might question his timing, given the economic state of the industry. “Ask me again in nine months,” he quips.
 
Silverman becomes the third woman named to lead a top tier public relations firm this year, after Helen Ostrowski at Porter Novelli and Donna Imperato at Cohn & Wolfe. She says she inherits a company in “turnaround mode.” Both of its biggest offices—New York and Washington, D.C.—are growing and “we are not making a lot of money but we are making money again,” she says.
 
She adds that she plans to build on the firm’s strong foundation, particularly in the corporate and healthcare practices.
 
“For more than 20 years, Marcia has been instrumental to our continued growth as a global company,” said Howard Paster, WPP executive vice president for public relations and public affairs.  “Marcia’s character, business acumen and ability to motivate and lead staff as well as provide clients superior counsel make her uniquely qualified to lead the company.”
 
Silverman served for more than two years as President of the Americas for Ogilvy. Prior to that, she spent 10 years as the head of the Washington, D.C. office.
 
Paul Hicks, the current managing director of Ogilvy’s New York office, will assume Silverman’s role as president of the Americas. Kym White, managing director of Ogilvy’s health and medical practice, will become New York office head. 
 
Says Silverman, “I believe that we have a management team moving forward focused on delivering excellent client service, creating professional opportunities for staff, growing the business and continuing to develop the agency's global network.”
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