Renetta McCann, one of the most powerful and influential black women in business and advertising, is stepping down as global CEO of Chicago-based Starcom MediaVest Group, one of the world’s top five media agencies. McCann, 51, will take a yearlong sabbatical starting January 2009, citing personal reasons for her departure.
“I have been given the opportunity to build an incredible organization during a decade of management responsibility, but I now recognize that some family matters and personal goals have unfortunately taken a back seat during this time. I would like to give them my full attention now,” McCann says in a statement. Although not specifying what she would do during her leave, she did note that one of her personal goals is to uncover some new ways of thinking about talent, opportunities, and assignments that can more quickly propel the right people into the best roles.
As global CEO, McCann, who was named BLACK ENTERPRISE’s Corporate Executive of the Year in 2002, and was also was named one of B.E.‘s 75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America in 2005 and 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2006, has been a driving force behind the company’s broad scope of strategic media planning. During her tenure, she has managed a network of more than 10 top media and marketing agencies with client billings in excess of $14 billion and a global work force of nearly 5,800.
“I was not expecting to fill the global CEO role at this point in my career,” Desmond says in a statement. “But the fact that I am prepared to do it is a testament to Renetta McCann.”
A native of Chicago, McCann studied speech communications at Northwestern University. The industry veteran began her career at SMG in 1978 at Leo Burnett Co. as a client service trainee. Her appointment to global CEO was one of many firsts at the company for persons of color. She was also the first African American promoted to media supervisor, as well as the first managing director, vice president, senior vice president, media director, and executive vice president of color.
McCann has contributed to Starcom MediaVest Group’s success with clients such as Procter & Gamble, Disney, Coca-Cola, and General Motors. She is credited with taking the company to the top spot as a media buyer via its offices in 89 global markets. The company buys more than $28 billion a year in advertising on behalf of its clients, giving it an 8% stake on the global market.
“It is impossible to summarize the contributions Renetta continues to make to our business and to the industry at large,” says Jack Klues, chairman of Publicis Groupe Media, in a statement. “She has earned the opportunity to step back from the global role and reassess the contributions she wants to make moving forward, and we look forward to benefiting from the perspective this sabbatical affords her.”