Maja Pawinska Sims 23 May 2023 // 11:00AM GMT
LONDON — Edelman has made two significant changes to its leadership team, naming EMEA president and CEO Ed Williams to the new role of international president and promoting chief operating officer Arent Jan (AJ) Hesselink to the EMEA leadership role.
Williams – a 12-year veteran of the firm, who has held the EMEA CEO role since 2019 –will now oversee Edelman’s APAC, EMEA, Canada and Latin America regions, with the CEOs of those geographies as his direct reports. Williams (pictured, left) will continue to report to global president and COO Matt Harrington.
Harrington told PRovoke Media that Williams’ remit was to ensure the firm’s strategy is executed across all its regions while balancing Edelman’s global revenue mix: “The new international role is reflective of Edelman’s ambition and is also recognition of what Ed and the team have accomplished in Europe.
“Our ambition is to be a global communications firms and one metric of that is the balance of the business and how it’s spread by region: at the moment, just north 60% of the business is US-based and we want to even the scales. If you have a strategy then you need to put muscle behind the strategy, and Ed’s the right man for the job.
“Ed’s role will include elevating and harnessing strengths in other regions in service of the international whole –for instance, we have a phenomenal studios team in Bogota that services the Americas, but why can’t that playbook service the rest of the world? It’s about having line of sight to those strengths.”
As EMEA president and CEO, Williams set a new strategic vision for the region, focused on breaking down geographic borders, integrating various specialties and bringing Edelman’s network together across EMEA to address client needs. Under his leadership, the EMEA business has grown by 25 per cent since 2019. Williams also supported the growth of Edelman’s largest clients in the Middle East as well as providing counsel to business and government leaders on strategic communications and crisis response.
Before leading EMEA, Williams served as CEO of UK and Ireland, where he more than doubled the revenue of the business, moving Edelman from number 5 in the market to number 1. Before joining Edelman, Williams led corporate affairs and communications for the BBC and Reuters. He also spent five years at Brunswick, before which he had a career as a network television journalist.
Williams said: “It has been a huge privilege over the last few years to work alongside brilliant leaders in our EMEA region. Together, we have not only significantly improved performance, but critically we’ve built a collaborative culture that sets the region up for future success.
“At our best we should be two things at once: deeply local, while at the same time geographically agnostic, matching the right talent to the right client at the right moment. This approach will shape a new international strategy. I am delighted to be handing the regional reins to AJ Hesselink, a leader who is deeply committed to our clients and our people.”
As the new EMEA CEO, Hesselink (pictured, right) will oversee the firm’s 17 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and join the firm’s executive leadership team, reporting to Williams.
Hesselink joined Edelman almost eight years ago and has played a major role in driving transformation across the region, including building a new operating system for EMEA, leading expansion of the regional client portfolio, particularly in the Middle East. Previously, he led Edelman Amsterdam, which doubled in size under his leadership.
Before joining the firm, Hesselink spent more than nine years working at Philips, where he held senior leadership roles in Philips’ global integrated marketing function, and was CMO for the Asia Pacific region, working out of Singapore. He began his career as a business journalist for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal.
Harrington told PRovoke Media: “EMEA’s success is a team sport, and AJ is a key member of that team; he’s operationally and strategically strong, and has proven he can lead the team and drive success. That success is not static, and he has a great deal of ambition for where the region can go next. Our strategy is to continue to operate EMEA as one region, drawing on the strength of talent and ability, and looking at opportunities for growth in a range of areas, including employee engagement and influencer.”
Hesselink added: “I am grateful for the opportunity to lead Edelman EMEA into our next chapter. As COO of the region for the past four years, it has been a privilege to partner with Ed and our excellent leadership bench to advance our strategy and client-centric operating model across EMEA. There is so much opportunity for Edelman in the region. The calibre of talent, our highly collaborative culture and our strategy of international integration fill me with optimism about what we can achieve together for our clients.”
The moves follow a number of other recent changes in Edelman's leadership: earlier this month, Ruth Warder became sole UK & Ireland CEO as co-CEO Hugh Taggart stepped down, and the firm also made a number of corporate changes in London. In April, Margot Edelman was appointed to lead the New York operation, and Radina Russell was promoted to US corporate chair.