Ferdinand de Bakker 16 Jun 2021 // 12:37PM GMT
To call Robert S. Leaf an extrovert would be an understatement. Bob would never miss an opportunity to meet people, be it colleagues, friends, clients, strangers, anyone actually. He would do so in the office, in coffeeshops, restaurants, theatres, anywhere. Many of the people he met this way became friends for life. He was instrumental in the careers of countless public relations practitioners. Powerful people in business and politics counted on him for advice.
Bob was hired by Buck Buchwald as Burson-Marsteller’s first trainee. His many talents were recognized almost immediately. He was among the very first in the firm to buy into Harold Burson’s vision of creating a global enterprise. And, over time he embodied this vision with a vigour that turned the firm into the world’s largest in size and leading in terms of quality. Bob’s entrepreneurial spirit took him from the USA to Europe, then South-East Asia, Australia, China, the Middle East, Latin America.
Bob Leaf didn’t need millions of dollars to buy agencies. He would fly into town, rent a room in a cheap hotel and start the business. He knew instinctively who to hire. Soon, successful, fast growing Burson-Marsteller offices popped up everywhere. Organic growth was the key word.
This concept, and the culture that emerged, turned the firm into a closely-knit family of friends that exists today. Stars emerged, some of whom would later become CEOs of competing firms. Bob led the effort to open up China and signed a deal with the national news agency that, at the time, seemed like an impossible thing to achieve. Not for Bob Leaf though.
Supported by his wife Adele and their son Stuart, this quick-thinking, highly intelligent and erudite gentlemen knew how to live the 89 years of his life. He was generous and supported friends in need. He was in love with the arts and supported it throughout his life. And always with a great sense of humour. He was passionate about his profession as a communicator and stayed active until very recently. Rest in peace, my friend.