Steve Barrett
Jul 10, 2024

Gail Heimann to retire from Weber Shandwick

After a 28-year career at the IPG agency, Heimann will be replaced as CEO by Susan Howe.

(L-R) The Weber Shandwick Collective president Susan Howe and CEO Gail Heimann. Howe is set to replace Heimann as CEO in November. (Photo credit: The Weber Shandwick Collective, used with permission)
(L-R) The Weber Shandwick Collective president Susan Howe and CEO Gail Heimann. Howe is set to replace Heimann as CEO in November. (Photo credit: The Weber Shandwick Collective, used with permission)

The Weber Shandwick Collective CEO Gail Heimann is retiring from the Interpublic Group PR network in November; she will be replaced by agency president Susan Howe.

Heimann was named CEO of Weber Shandwick in July 2019, when incumbent Andy Polansky moved upstairs to become chairman and CEO of IPG’s Constituency Management Group, which housed most of the holding company’s PR firms, including Weber. Prior to that, she was president of Weber from 2013. Polansky retired from Interpublic Group in June 2022.

Polansky, Harris Diamond, Jack Leslie and Heimann were part of a group of senior executives who grew the Weber Shandwick brand following the merger in the early 2000s of The Weber Group, Shandwick International and BSMG (formerly Bozell Sawyer Miller Group). With Heimann’s announcement, from November all of them will have retired from the PR industry. 

Howe has been president of Weber since June 2021; she previously served as chief growth officer and chief collaboration officer in her 28-year-plus career at the firm. She will still be based in Chicago, but will continue to spend time in New York City and other regions around the world, which she has done in her role overseeing global operations.

“I’ve been with the company for close to 30 years; Susan has a few decades as well. And we have been working together as partners for the past few years. I feel incredibly good about where The Weber Shandwick Collective is today,” said Heimann when asked why she was choosing to retire.

“It’s an extraordinary organization and we’ve had tremendous success in the past few years,” she added. “We’ve had year-on-year growth and we’ve innovated ahead of the industry.”

Heimann will continue sitting on the boards she participates in and pursue her passions to advocate for women in business, marginalized populations and the arts. She also intends to write a book.

Jim O’Leary is North America CEO of Weber Shandwick; Michael Frohlich is global chief client and transformation officer and EMEA CEO. Howe said both will continue in their roles and there are no further senior management changes planned at the agency as a result of Heimann leaving.

“Gail is a once-in-a-lifetime leader and CEO,” said Howe. “One of the things I take away from working with her is her toughness and passion for creativity, no matter what the assignment is. We have transcended PR to be a broader solution for our clients.”

The duo will spend the next four months with Weber’s clients and teams to ensure a smooth handover of agency leadership transition.

Heimann said the highlight of her Weber career was “being part of a culture that is unique” and quoted one of her clients who said one of the challenges was “how do you grow big and stay small?”

Howe said Heimann “taught her to passionately pursue ideas with a sense of human kindness.”

Weber Shandwick was named Global Agency of the Year in London in May at the PRWeek Global Awards 2024. At the recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Weber Shandwick Chicago won a Grand Prix in the Brand Experience & Activation category for The First Edible Mascot for Kellanova brand Pop-Tarts. The firm also teamed up with McCann Detroit to win Gold and Silver for its U.S. Bank Translators activation.

The Weber Shandwick Collective includes agencies Cappuccino, KRC Research, Flipside, Powell Tate, Prime, Resolute, That Lot, United Minds, Weber Shandwick and Current Group.

The collective reported a revenue increase of 6% to $970 million globally and $580 million in the U.S. in 2023, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2024.


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