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Boston ad firm Mullen names new CEO

New Mullen chief executive Alex Leikikh takes over from Joe Grimaldi.

New Mullen chief executive Alex Leikikh takes over from Joe Grimaldi.

Boston advertising agency Mullen said Monday that it has promoted the firm’s president, Alex Leikikh, to chief executive, succeeding longtime chief executive Joe Grimaldi, who will remain as the company’s chairman through December 2015.

Grimaldi, 62, had served as chief executive since 1999, when The Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. of New York purchased the agency. Grimaldi said in an interview he handpicked Leikikh, 40, to succeed him as part of a carefully planned transition. The change went into effect Monday.

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“Alex is a guy with ambition, hunger, and vision,” Grimaldi said. “Too many companies wait too long before they create succession plans. It’s the right thing to do at the right time.”

Grimaldi said he is proud of a number of accomplishments during his tenure. Mullen began in Wenham as a small, boutique firm with a handful of employees and limited scope. Under Grimaldi, Mullen moved to its current Financial District headquarters to build a national clientele and brand.

Mullen devised a series of successful advertising campaigns for companies that made their brands recognizable under Grimaldi. Notable among them was the award-winning, tongue-in-cheek 1999 ad for employment website Monster.com, “When I Grow Up,” featuring children whose aspirations were to dead-end careers as file clerks and middle managers.

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Mullen also expanded rapidly, opening offices in Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Winston-Salem, N.C. It now has more than 450 employees in Boston and 750 nationwide.

Leikikh becomes just the third chief executive since Jim Mullen founded the agency in 1970. In 2009, Grimaldi recruited Leikikh from a Minneapolis advertising firm. When Grimaldi asked about Leikikh’s career goals during an interview, Leikikh recalled, he responded that he wanted to be chief executive.

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Leikikh made his reputation as an account executive, handling high-profile clients such as United Airlines and BMW. At Mullen, he is credited with helping to land clients such as JetBlue, Acura, American Greetings, Google, and Zappos, and more than doubling revenues.

“My plan is attract the best talent and continue to attract clients who have challenger mind-sets and who believe in creativity,” said Leikikh, who became president in 2011. “I want to provide amazing content to those clients and grow the business.”

Grimaldi made Mullen a national name in the advertising industry, Leikikh said. He aims to take the Mullen brand global.

“We’ve proven our brand is portable,” Leikikh said. “Over the next few years, we plan to stress test the brand and potentially take it overseas to Europe, Asia, or Latin America.”

Edward Mason can be
reached at Edward@EdwardMason.net. Follow him on Twitter @EBMason.
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