NEW YORK — Omnicom is redoubling efforts to find a CEO for its $1.4bn public relations unit, more than one year after Karen van Bergen relinquished the role.

According to sources familiar with the situation, the search continues after last year's process to shortlist contenders and identify van Bergen's successor had ultimately proved fruitless by the end of 2020. 

"There are not many candidates to start with, and very tough expectations," said one executive familiar with the search.

The search remains handled by executive recruitment firms, including Korn Ferry. According to the job description, which has been seen by PRovoke Media, "the PR Group CEO must be a globally-minded executive who possesses the commercial acumen and strategic agility to help evolve the group meet changing client needs and demands."

"Some would define the right executive as both a continuous learner and thought leader," continues the description. "This is a multi-branded business given the portfolio of agencies and, as such, the CEO must be a leader with excellent communication skills to balance the needs of all the internal and external stakeholders with clarity, focus and a deft touch."

Key responsibilities include leading the OPRG group of agencies, which include FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, MMC and Portland, "on a path of sustainable, profitable growth," along with development of a strategic plan for group growth, including acquisition opportunities.

The successful candidate must bring 20+ years of communications experience, along with a strong network of CEOs of global companies. S/he must also be an industry thought leader, be able to bring new clients to OPRG and be able to serve as a role model in the industry, "demonstrating integrity and ethical behaviour."

Success is measured according to year-on-year revenue and EBITDA growth, talent development and measurable collaboration within OPRG and other Omnicom networks.  

John Doolittle, president of Omnicom's DAS unit, which houses OPRG, continues to handle OPRG CEO duties since van Bergen stepped down. At that time, the group indicated that van Bergen's successor will come from outside the company, while also targeting the end of 2020 to finalise the appointment. 

Van Bergen had spent roughly four years leading OPRG when she vacated it in December 2019 to lead Omnicom University, the holding company's long-standing management development initiative, with more than 5,000 global alumni.

OPRG houses 10 firms, numbering more than 6,300 staff worldwide. The PR group reported fee income of around $1.4bn in 2019, after several years of stagnant growth. In its third quarter earnings report, OPRG revenue fell 3.4%, well ahead of the group as a whole. 

OPRG declined commenting on the search.