Cheil N.A. CEO Sawyer Exits

McKinney, Barbarian, will operate independently

Buz Sawyer, the former Wieden + Kennedy exec who was named CEO of Cheil North America in late 2010 is leaving the Korean agency at the end of the year.

Sawyer will not be replaced. He now plans to focus on his duties as board chairman and strategic advisor at Swedish digital school Hyper Island as it builds a U.S. presence, and he will be consulting.

Sawyer, who worked at W+K for the better part of 20 years, was hired with a mandate to build a U.S. profile for Cheil, which is a part of the Samsung Group. During his tenure, the company acquired Durham, N.C.-based independent McKinney to become the centerpiece of U.S. agency operations. Cheil, Korea’s largest ad agency, previously operated Samsung agency Cheil USA, which was absorbed into McKinney, when it opened a New York office in January. 

But the last three years have also seen frequent turnover among the execs Sawyer hired to help create a reputation for the agency. Last month, Alex Van Gestel—who joined from Anomaly, where he had been executive director of worldwide brands—left his role as McKinney N.Y. managing director after initially being hired as Cheil USA president and CEO in May 2012. Lars Bastholm, the former top digital creative exec at Ogilvy and AKQA, departed in November 2012 after joining as Cheil USA chief creative officer a year earlier.

In a statement, Cheil said Sawyer will not be replaced because McKinney and digital shop The Barbarian Group, acquired in 2009, will “independently drive Cheil’s growth in the U.S. market.”