Search For New DMA Leader Begins In January

A search committee has been formed to find a replacement for H. Robert Wientzen, who announced plans to retire yesterday as president/CEO of the Direct Marketing Association.

The committee consists of seven current and former members of the DMA's board of directors and is led by past chairman Michael P. Sherman, vice chairman of Crosstown Traders Inc. They are working on what criteria to seek in a replacement and will have that done by early January, at which point a search firm will be named.

The DMA intends to name a replacement by July 1. Once a new head is found, Wientzen will stay involved with the DMA until the end of 2004 to help with the transition. If no one is named by July 1, the DMA said, Wientzen will stay in his current role.

Other members of the search committee: Rebecca L. Jewett, president, Norm Thompson Outfitters Inc.; Gordon R. Cooke, president/CEO, J. Jill Group Inc.; Ronald L. Bliwas, president/CEO, A. Eicoff & Co.; Joseph C. Lawler, executive vice president, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.; Patricia G. Campbell, managing partner, Terra Nova Marketing Solutions; and Elizabeth Kislik, president, Liz Kislik Associates LLC.

Wientzen said he had made a commitment to his family that he would retire when he reached age 65.

“It's time to spend more time with our three grandchildren, with whom I don't spend enough time,” he said in a statement. “Also, [his wife] Lucille and I are looking forward to traveling together.”

The decision was not easy, Wientzen said.

“While our industry and the DMA have faced many challenges since I came onboard in 1996,” he said, “it's also been a period of unprecedented growth, international expansion and technological advancement — most profoundly the emergence of the Internet as a marketing channel for our members, large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, here and around the globe.”

Wientzen took over at the DMA in October 1996. Before that, he was CEO/chairman of Advanced Promotion Technologies Inc. and he had a 27-year career with Procter & Gamble. He presided during a time when privacy issues came to the forefront of public discourse, and he provided a face for the DMA when the association was involved in some of its most furious controversies. He often was seen on talk shows and morning news programs presenting the DMA's case during the contentious launch of the national no-call list in October.

Before the national no-call fight, a sense had existed among telemarketers that the DMA under Wientzen did not make their interests a high enough priority. Kathryn Barber, president of Barber Consulting, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, said Wientzen had to deal with many members of the association, including some on the board of directors, who had personal feelings against telemarketing and tried to distance direct marketing as a whole away from it.

“He led the association admirably considering that he had so many interest groups to think about,” Barber said. “Telemarketing is not popular.”

One of the DMA's challenges in the post-Wientzen era will be integrating the diverse interests that have come under the association's umbrella during the Wientzen-led expansion, Barber said. Direct marketing has become a fractured and specialized industry, and it remains to be seen whether the various disciplines can be made to work together.

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