Senay Succeeds Graham as Third CEO in Fleishman History
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Senay Succeeds Graham as Third CEO in Fleishman History

John Graham, who has led Fleishman-Hillard as president and chief executive officer for more than 30 years, will pass those titles on to Dave Senay—the third CEO in the firm’s 60 year history—while retaining the chairman’s role.

Paul Holmes

ST. LOUIS—John Graham, who has led Fleishman-Hillard as president and chief executive officer for more than 30 years, will pass those titles on to Dave Senay—the third CEO in the firm’s 60 year history—while retaining the chairman’s role.

Graham presided over Fleishman’s growth from a small Midwestern firm with offices in St. Louis and Kansas City into one of the largest public relations agencies in the world, with 80 owned offices on six continents. He also led the firm through its sale to Omnicom in 1997, a move that has enabled it to make a number of key acquisitions in recent years.

Senay, who had previously served as general manager of the firm’s headquarters office in St. Louis, and currently serves as co-chair of the senior management committee and regional president for three of the firm’s nine regions—the Central United States; Canada; and Europe, Middle East, and Africa—will report to Graham and will be supported by a veteran leadership team. Senay joined Fleishman-Hillard in St. Louis in 1984.

Paul Johnson, who has served as regional president for the firm’s Mid-Atlantic and Latin America regions and co-chair of the senior management committee, will take on new challenges as vice chairman of worldwide growth and president of public affairs. The latter role will draw on his experience negotiating and managing many of the firm’s recent acquisitions. He has also been responsible for the firm’s 21 global practice groups, its international advisory board, and its public affairs companies including GMMB, [email protected], Allyn & Company, and Mercury Public Affairs. Johnson joined the firm in 1985 as a charter member of its Washington, D.C., office.  

Senay and Johnson will serve as members of a newly-formed nine-person office of the chairman, which will help identify strategic priorities for the firm. Other members include vice chairmen of operations Bill Anderson and Kurt Wehrsten; chief talent officer Agnes Gioconda; president of client relations Jack Modzelewski; chief financial officer Fred Rohlfing; and regional president and managing Director of Communications Consulting Worldwide Peter Verrengia.

The nine members of the office have a combined experience with Flieshman-Hillard of more than 180 years. The firm also has a 21-member senior management committee, responsible for client service, business development, best practices and inter-region cooperation, that includes the above individuals as well as Kevin Bell, Martha Boudreau, Lynne Anne Davis, Rich Jernstedt, Richard Kline, Curt Kundred, Rissig Licha, Janise Murphy, John Saunders, Nancy Seliger, Linda Smith, and Susan Veidt.

Says Graham: “Over the past three decades, Fleishman-Hillard has grown from a single office in St. Louis to more than 80 offices spanning the globe. There is no better client-service network and no more talented group of employees anywhere in public relations. We are fortunate to be making this change at a time when our firm is in a great position to continue its industry leadership, for a number of reasons,

“First, our business is extremely strong, and we continue to grow our existing client base and add significant new clients around the world. Second, employee and client surveys indicate that our brand has never been stronger. Third, we continue to develop and grow nontraditional products and services in areas such as new media, results measurement, and public affairs that are accelerating our top-line growth and enhancing our core competencies. Finally, we have a management team of unparalleled experience and excellence. Our senior management committee members have an average tenure of 15 years with Fleishman-Hillard. They have led the firm to an average annual compound growth rate of 15 percent over the past 15 years and they have the talent to continue that success for many years to come.”

Senay acknowledges that he has “huge shoes to fill” but believes there is still room for growth, particularly in the international arena. “There’s a huge world of opportunity out there for us. This is an agency with no shortage of great ideas, no shortage of innovation, no shortage of desire. And we have never been deeper in terms of talent. So it’s a question of making the right decisions and building on the tremendous position we are in right now.”

Graham describes Senay as “a top performer who has worked across many practices in our industry, and he has solid international experience. He is a team-builder, truly enjoys and excels at working with clients, and embodies the culture of Fleishman-Hillard.”

Johnson, he says, “is unequalled on the public affairs front, and he is an astute business-builder. He, too, is a strong proponent of our culture, which is highly important to our firm. He brings excellent abilities to his new responsibilities for driving global growth. Both of these individuals are leaders and entrepreneurs. I am completely confident in their ability to lead the firm.”

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