Hunt Scanlon’s Top 10 Search Assignments for 2023

December 20, 2023 – 2023 was a challenging year of many sectors. But it was also a year when the best recruiting leaders stepped up their game. Across the board, from non-profits, universities, and even the royal family, to start-ups, the Fortune 500, and PE-backed companies, top leaders were in high demand to help guide organizations through formidable challenges and uncertain economic conditions. Add to that, recruiters continue to talk about ongoing talent shortages. Executive search firms stood ready to help, and Hunt Scanlon Media now takes a look back at the top 10 searches of 2023.

For starters in one of the biggest searches in the media industry, ZRG Partners helped to secure a new leader for The Washington Post. Owner Jeff Bezos now believes they have the right leader in place to build for the future. One unique search that is ongoing, the Kensington Palace has engaged Odgers Berndtson to find a CEO to lead the household reporting directly to the Prince and Princess of Wales. It has released a job description which stresses this position.

As companies look to build internal brand awareness and set their sights more on establishing and driving their own unique cultures, chief people officers are coming more into vogue. The Christopher Group (TCG), a boutique HR executive search and business solutions recruiting firm, recently assisted in the recruitment of a new CPO for Black & Veatch. HR leaders and executive recruiters alike also continue to say that promoting diversity and belonging in the workplace is not just a buzzword. This past year, Blue Rock Search assisted in the recruitment of the new vice president, global head for DEI of Papa John’s.

Recruiters have also told Hunt Scanlon Media that the number of in-house lawyers and law firm partners with aspirations of becoming a general counsel is at an all-time high. This past year saw DHR Global place the inaugural general counsel for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). While rival conference, the Big Ten, used TurnkeyZRG for the recruitment of its seventh commissioner.

Within the higher education sector, universities also have faced numerous challenges and the demand for visionary and transformational leaders has never been higher. Storbeck Search, part of the Diversified Search Group, this year recruited the first female/Black president for Boston University. We also had the 113-year-old Boy Scouts of America (BSA) replace its long-times leader with the help of Korn Ferry and Egon Zehnder found a new CEO for Primedia Group in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Federal Reserve Bank president searches are also some of the most coveted assignments to take on among executive recruiters, and a number of leading search firms have gotten in on the action. Spencer Stuart was recently retained by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to lead its search for a new president and CEO. That search is still ongoing and will conclude in 2024!

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s Top 10 selections:

ZRG Partners Recruits CEO for The Washington Post

ZRG Partners, a leading search firm backed by private equity firm RFE Investment Partners, recently assisted in the recruitment of veteran media executive Will Lewis as publisher and CEO of the Washington Post. Erik Sorenson led the assignment on behalf of ZRG. “As I’ve gotten to know Will, I’ve been drawn to his love for journalism and passion for driving financial success,” said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has owned the Washington Post since 2013. “Will embodies the tenacity, energy and vision needed for this role. He believes that together we will build the right future for the Post. I agree.” Mr. Lewis will assume the top position at the Washington Post effective January 2, succeeding Patty Stonesifer, who came on when Fred Ryan stepped down earlier this year after nearly a decade in the job. The appointment of Mr. Lewis comes after a monthslong recruiting process run by Ms. Stonesifer, who selected ZRG to evaluate candidates. “In recent weeks, The Washington Post or ZRG reached out to numerous top figures in the industry, according to several people familiar with the discussions,” The New York Times said. “Ten years ago, I made a commitment to the future of The Washington Post, inspired by its ambitious and consequential journalism,” said Mr. Bezos. “Today, I stand confident in that future knowing it is in the hands of Will, an exceptional, tenacious industry executive whose background in fierce, award-winning journalism makes him the right leader at the right time. I also want to thank Patty Stonesifer for stepping in to lead the Post so ably over the past several months.” Leading at the intersection of media and technology, Mr. Lewis is currently the founder, CEO, and publisher of The News Movement, a social-first media business providing nonpartisan news to Gen Z. Prior to that, he served as CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal from 2014 to 2020.

Royal Family Taps Search Firm to Find CEO
Kensington Palace has engaged Odgers Berndtson to find a CEO to lead the household reporting directly to the Prince and Princess of Wales. It has released a job description which stresses the unique nature of the role. Prince William and Catherine are said by sources to have led this decision to hire a search firm to fill this position. Odgers Berndtson’s Sarah Lowndes Jones is spearheading the assignment. A source told the British tabloid Daily Mail’s Eden Confidential column that this is a “revolutionary move.” Said the source: “They are overthrowing the traditional, hierarchical structure in which staff answer to private secretaries. It has really set the cat among the pigeons. Will the King and Queen have to follow their lead?” This is a unique opportunity, the job specification said. “The CEO is the most senior and accountable leader for the household,” it says. “They will be responsible for the development and implementation of TRH’s long-term strategy and continuing to strengthen a professional and collaborative household culture. The successful candidate must be emotionally intelligent, with low ego, and strong self-awareness and understanding of their impact on others. Anyone wanting the job must be able to operate as a servant leader, empowering the senior team,” the job specification continues. “The CEO will deal directly with King Charles and Queen Camilla’s household, serving as the strategic interface to Buckingham Palace, to align The Royal Highnesses’ priorities with those in support of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen.” This individual will run a staff of roughly 60 employees.

The Christopher Group Recruits Chief People Officer for Black & Veatch
The Christopher Group (TCG), a boutique HR executive search and business solutions recruiting firm, has assisted in the recruitment of Andrea Bernica as chief people officer of Black & Veatch, an employee-owned global engineering, procurement, consulting, and construction company with a more than 100-year track record of innovation in sustainable infrastructure. Co-founder Tom Christopher and managing partners Pam Noble and Ayla Maloney led the assignment. A lawyer by trade and an existing member of Black & Veatch’s leadership team, Ms. Bernica leads all elements of the company’s global human resource strategy while managing talent and organizational capability, cultivating an inclusive, high-performing work environment with professionals from diverse backgrounds. “Change is a constant in an evolving and growing business, and transformation is a living process,” said Mario Azar, chairman and CEO. “In her new role, Andrea will remain instrumental in keeping us on our exciting trajectory of growth, opportunity and innovation for our clients, communities and employee-owners.” Founded in 1998 by Tom and Paula Christopher (former HR executives with GE, Pepsi, Progressive Insurance, and Citigroup), The Christopher Group is a leading boutique HR executive search and staffing solutions firms. TCG is staffed by former HR professionals and trained search practitioners who use proprietary, scientific and industry-leading systems, tools, and processes. The firm has offices in Willoughby, OH; Sarasota, FL; and Kansas City, MO.

Blue Rock Search Recruits Global Head of DEI for Papa John’s
Blue Rock Search has assisted in the recruitment of Candace Barnes as the new vice president, global head of DEI of Papa John’s. “Blue Rock was pleased to work with Papa Johns on the search to identify their vice president, global head of DEI,” said Ruben Moreno, founder and HR practice leader at Blue Rock Search. “Our team, led by Colin Boggess, understands the significance of having an experienced, dedicated leader as the driving force of an effective, multifaceted DEI function. Candace Barnes brings over 15 years of experience in DEI and a proven history of building effective, diverse teams, and we look forward to seeing her share her knowledge and experience to support Papa John’s’ continued success.” Ms. Barnes is an experienced diversity and inclusion leader. For over 15 years, she has been helping businesses find and keep their employees. She also provides expertise on diversity and inclusion initiatives, ergs, national events, diversity outreach, ERGs, new hire processes, employee coaching and retention, and company culture. Her specialties include: career coaching, project management, diversity and inclusion, recruiting, university and early career program management, talent management, sourcing, purchasing, SAP, and supplier diversity. Prior to joining Papa John’s, Ms. Barnes spent 15 years at Rockwell Automation. Her tenure there saw her rise through the ranks from supply chain management to leadership roles focused on talent acquisition and DEI, ultimately taking on the role of director, global diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

DHR Places First General Counsel for Atlantic Coast Conference
Talent advisory firm DHR Global has helped to place Pearlynn Houck as the inaugural general counsel for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in Greensboro, NC. Ms. Houck, who will begin her tenure on April 17, joins the ACC from the North Carolina-based law firm Robinson Bradshaw, where she was most recently a litigation shareholder. During her 17-year career at the firm, she has practiced in the areas of litigation, government and internal investigations, education, and sports law. DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader Glenn Sugiyama headed the assignment with significant work from the conference’s advisory committee. The committee was comprised of Pam Bernard, vice president and general counsel at Duke University, and Jack Swarbrick, vice president and director of athletics at Notre Dame University, with input from University of Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud. “Pearlynn brings a wealth of experience to this critical position, and we look forward to her leadership and legal expertise,” said ACC commissioner Jim Phillips. “As we continue to navigate the future of college athletics and the many opportunities and challenges ahead, this is the right time to hire a full-time executive staff member to provide comprehensive oversight of legal affairs and risk management for the conference. DHR Global was terrific in its work to help us secure the ACC’s first-ever in house general counsel. Glenn, and his team, brought tremendous expertise and seamlessly managed all logistics surrounding this critically important hire.” In recent years, Ms. Houck served as outside counsel to the Southeastern Conference. This included representation in pending litigation, including antitrust lawsuits and concussion litigation. In addition to litigation, Ms. Houck provided counsel on a number of issues, including NIL laws and compliance conference governance, and conference specific disputes.

Storbeck Search | Diversified Search Recruits First Female/Black President for Boston University
Higher education-focused Storbeck Search, part of the Diversified Search Group, has assisted in the recruitment of Melissa L. Gilliam as the 11th president of Boston University. Robert Brown announced that he will retire as president at the end of the 2022–2023 academic year. “Dr. Gilliam will be the first female president of Boston University and first person of color to lead our proud 184-year-old research institution,” said Ahmass L. Fakahany, chair, board of trustees. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to our community, one that is in continual ascension and shimmering with promise.” The assignment was led by Shelly Weiss Storbeck, global education practice lead and managing director; R. Thomas Fitch, managing director; Linda Chavers, managing associate; and senior associates Amanda Bennett and Lisa Solinsky. Dr. Gilliam’s appointment caps a search that lasted more than a year and yielded close to 400 potential candidates from around the world. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni participated in the process by sharing the characteristics and qualifications they hoped to see in their next president, input that helped shape a presidential profile and guided the work of the 16-person presidential search committee. “Dr. Gilliam is an accomplished scholar, a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and a  physician by training, with roots in the humanities and with research conducted at the intersection of medicine and the social sciences,” said BU search committee member Kimberly Howard, chair of the BU Faculty Council and an associate professor of counseling psychology and applied human development at BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. “Her approach to leadership is that of a consensus builder. She is highly collaborative and also able to take the hard stand when it is needed.”

Korn Ferry Recruits President and CEO for the Boy Scouts of America
Following an extensive selection process, Korn Ferry has assisted in the recruitment of Roger Krone as the new president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). He succeeds Roger Mosby as the 113-year-old organization’s top administrator. “Roger Krone has spent his entire career transforming complex businesses and preparing them for what lies ahead,” said Brad Tilden, who serves as the BSA’s national chair. “His experience, combined with his personal passion for scouting, will enable him to look at a familiar organization in new ways and find innovative approaches to welcoming more youth into the adventure of Scouting. Our movement could not be more excited to welcome him as our new leader.” The BSA’s CEO search process began in the spring of 2023 with the selection of Korn Ferry, which used a robust and inclusive process involving a range of BSA stakeholders. This group, which included representatives from throughout our movement including youth, scout executives, and BSA alumni, was tasked with providing feedback to inform the search. In late October, the chief scout executive selection committee unanimously selected Krone to present to the BSA’s national executive committee and national board. Mr. Krone recently retired as the chairman and CEO of Leidos, a $15 billion Fortune 250 government technology solutions firm where, in nine years of leadership, he and his team nearly tripled revenue and more than doubled the workforce. An Eagle Scout who spent summers at scout camp and Philmont Scout Ranch, Mr. Krone regularly applied the lessons he learned in scouting during an engineering and aerospace career spanning more than 45 years.

Egon Zehnder Recruits CEO for Primedia Group
After an intensive executive search, leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder has recruited Bongumusa Makhathini as the new CEO of Primedia Group in Johannesburg, South Africa. He takes over from Dave Roberts who now serves as chairman of Primedia Outdoor and also heads up mergers and acquisitions at Primedia Group. “Last year I shared the Primedia Group’s Vision 2025 with our staff, our partners and our advertisers,” said Jonathan Procter, group CEO of Primedia. “I spoke of how the group’s growth strategy was based on excellence and innovation on the shoulders of exceptional talent. I am delighted to introduce Bongumusa Makhathini as the CEO of Primedia Outdoor. He brings drive, determination, and a fresh approach that is an intrinsic part of the Primedia DNA. Having Bongumusa on board gives us a distinctive advantage in the highly competitive markets in which we operate. We are confident that Bongumusa will take Primedia Outdoor to new heights in South Africa and on the continent.” Mr. Makhathini is a seasoned executive with more than 15 years of experience in both the private and state owned enterprise sectors. He is an accomplished businessman with an aptitude for operational excellence, and a track record in socially responsible business development and transformation. Mr. Makhathini has served on the boards of British American Tobacco, South African Breweries, the Sports Trust, the Ekurhuleni World Outreach Centre Advisory Board, the SABC, Pink Drive, and SAtion. He most recently served as CEO of Empowerment Capital Investment Partners.

Spencer Stuart Selected by the St. Louis Fed to Lead CEO Search
Spencer Stuart was recently retained by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to lead its search for a new president and CEO. The selection of Spencer Stuart followed a formal procurement process, including interviews of several qualified firms by search committee members. The new leader will replace James Bullard, the longest-serving central bank official and a closely watched voice on monetary and economic policy. Mr. Bullard unexpectedly announced his resignation in July. He officially left on Aug.14 to become a business school dean at Purdue University. The bank said Spencer Stuart will look for a new leader in a process overseen by the bank’s board members, who do not hail from financial firms regulated by the Fed. “The search process will be robust, transparent, fair, and inclusive,” said Jim McKelvey, chair of the St. Louis Fed board of directors and chair of the search committee. “The search committee is focused on finding the next great leader of the St. Louis Fed — someone distinctly qualified to advance its mission to promote a healthy economy and financial stability and further the bank’s longstanding reputation for leadership and impact.”

The CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis plays a significant role in the economic well-being of the central U.S. and the nation as leader of a diverse, multi-faceted organization committed to promoting a healthy economy, financial stability, and serving the public. Candidates must have respected credentials in macroeconomics or recognized/demonstrated stature in a field that contributes information vital to monetary policymaking.

TurnkeyZRG Assists Big Ten Conference in Recruiting Seventh Commissioner
Following an extensive national search, TurnkeyZRG has assisted in the recruitment of Tony Petitti as the seventh commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. He will begin his tenure on May 15. He replaces Kevin Warren, who is becoming president and CEO of the Chicago Bears. TurnkeyZRG conducted a comprehensive and inclusive recruitment process that delivered a diverse slate of potential candidates from within collegiate athletics, professional sports, media, government, and more. “Tony Petitti is a great fit with the Big Ten,” said Len Perna, chairman and CEO of TurnkeyZRG. “On top of that, another way to look at Tony’s hire is holistically across college athletics, meaning that Tony is a key puzzle piece on the macro team: Charlie Baker, Greg Sankey, etc. That macro team has to figure out a bunch of big, vexing, complex issues in college athletics. Tony’s experience is complimentary and additive to the other key players on THAT macro team. That’s not by accident,” he said. “The bar was so incredibly high on this search,” Mr. Perna said. “The Big Ten is the strongest blend of athletics and academics, sitting at the epicenter of college sports. The states that make up the Big Ten, now coast to coast, are major engines of the U.S. economy, government, culture, education, etc. There is no more powerful alliance in education or sports. And that attracted an extremely strong and diverse pool of incredible candidates.” Mr. Petitti is a proven leader who brings nearly four decades of sports, business, and media industry acumen to the Big Ten Conference. He served as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball and president and CEO of MLB Network, among other key roles in television.

Related: The Current State of Executive Recruiting

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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