Spencer Stuart Will Lead Search for Wientzen Replacement

The committee in charge of finding a replacement for Direct Marketing Association president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to assist in the process, the DMA said yesterday.

Leading the search are Spencer Stuart consultants Christopher C. Nadherny, whose background is in direct and Internet marketing, and Leslie W. Hortum, who has extensive experience in association management. Wientzen's replacement is to take over July 1, though Wientzen will stay with the DMA to assist in the transition until the end of 2004.

According to Spencer Stuart, Nadherny, who is based in Chicago, established the search firm's direct marketing practice in 1990. He also helped create Spencer Stuart's North American Internet practice in the late 1990s and has conducted more than 300 searches.

Hortum, who joined the firm last year, works for Spencer Stuart's education, nonprofit and public policy practice in Washington. She formerly served as senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The DMA considered several search firms but chose one with experience in both direct marketing and association management, said Michael Sherman, the DMA board of directors member who is leading the seven-member search committee. The committee thought it needed search experts familiar with both fields given direct marketing's steep learning curve.

“The language of direct marketing is hard to teach,” said Sherman, who is also vice chairman of Crosstown Traders. “It would be like going to France and not speaking French.”

The committee originally intended to pick a search firm in January. However, the committee is sticking with the July 1 deadline, Sherman said.

Committee members are still developing a list of qualities they will seek in a CEO candidate, though they will focus on the DMA's future needs rather than look to what has been done in the past, Sherman said. The committee has not decided whether it will look for a candidate with a DM background, as had been the case with Wientzen's selection, or whether it will opt for the best candidate overall, regardless of background.

Internal as well as outside candidates are under consideration, Sherman said. Members of the DMA board of directors are eligible to apply for the job, though Sherman said he was not aware that any had expressed interest and that he himself was not a candidate.

Responding to calls from some industry watchers that the DMA pick a female candidate to replace Wientzen, Sherman said that selecting a candidate based on gender or ethnicity was “not the right way” to run a search and that the process would be equal opportunity.

“We want to have an open process so we can get the leadership we need to continue the good work we're doing,” he said.

Wientzen announced his decision to leave in December, saying he had promised his family he would retire when he reached 65. He has been the DMA's president/CEO since October 1996.

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