Weber Shandwick Chairman Jack Leslie announced his retirement today, following a storied career of 45 years in communications and public affairs. Leslie has held the role of chairman at Weber Shandwick for more than 20 years since the merger of Bozell Sawyer Miller Group (BSMG) and Weber Shandwick in 2001. He will stay in his current role until March 2022 and has agreed to continue as a senior advisor, counseling the agency and its clients on corporate reputation, social impact and public policy.
– Leslie Will Remain Chairman Through March 2022 and Continue as Senior Advisor to the Agency –
“I am so grateful to have spent my career at the intersection of communications, politics and business, and to have worked with visionaries who’ve made such a difference in the world. I’ve also witnessed a transformation of our business; analog became digital, and an era of broadcasting became an era of engagement. We stayed ahead of the curve, and I’m proud we emerged as a leader in our industry. During all this time, I’ve also been so fortunate to have partners willing to help me pursue my interests in development and humanitarian causes. In the last year, I’ve been particularly active in advocacy around migration and public health. I’m looking forward to giving more time and attention to these passions,” Leslie said.
As a leading communications executive, political consultant and international development activist, Leslie has counseled countless nonprofit organizations, government institutions, civic leaders and the world’s largest brands for more than four decades. After serving as a political director for the late Senator Edward Kennedy in the 1980s, Leslie was named president of Sawyer Miller, a pioneering political consulting firm, where he advised dozens of presidential and statewide campaigns in the United States, Latin America, Asia and Africa. He was a close advisor to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia during both his presidential campaigns and the long peace process in the country. In 2016, Leslie received the highest honor given a non-citizen in Colombia, the Order of San Carlos, for his work on Plan Colombia and during the peace negotiations.
Leslie’s work at the helm of Sawyer Miller saw the firm grow into a leading corporate consulting, advocacy and public affairs firm over the next two decades. Leslie was a key member of the leadership team as Weber Shandwick developed into a leading, multidisciplinary marketing services organization, achieved two decades of positive growth and was recognized with the industry’s most prestigious awards, including PRovoke’s Global and U.S. Agency of the Decade (2020), PRovoke Global Agency of the Year, PRWeek Global Agency of the Year, PRWeek Purpose Agency of the Year, Ad Age Agency A-list and more than 135 Cannes Lions.
The story of Weber Shandwick’s journey to becoming the powerhouse it is today could not be written without Jack Leslie, Jack’s incredible foresight and fortitude to stay ahead of the market and to anticipate client needs pushed our firm time and time again in the right direction. We’re grateful for his counsel, his dedication to the agency, his invaluable contributions to driving positive change and personally, for his friendship.
Chairman & CEO, IPG DXTRA
In addition to his professional roles, Leslie is an activist for international development, humanitarian assistance and global health. He chaired USA for UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) during the 1990s and was appointed to the board of United States African Development Foundation (USADF) in 2003 by President George W. Bush. He was subsequently appointed chairman of the board of USADF by President Barack Obama and has since led missions to 25 African countries. In 2021, USADF announced an annual grant program in Leslie’s honor for his 20 years of service. Additionally, Leslie served as chairman of USAID’s Advisory Committee for Voluntary Foreign Assistance (ACVFA) during the Obama administration. He is deeply involved in global health, formerly serving as chair of the Advisory Committee of the Duke Global Health Institute and currently as chair of the board of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). Leslie is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, on the board of directors of Water.org, the Partnership for Central America (PCA) and formerly chair of the board of the Ron Brown Scholars Program.
“Jack’s imprint on the evolution of Weber Shandwick is hard to miss,” said Gail Heimann, CEO, Weber Shandwick. “Under his leadership and influence over many decades, we have formed an organization that not only solves complex challenges for a diverse mix of clients, but one that delivers with purpose – and a passion for doing well by doing good. And lucky for us, Jack will continue to bring that passion and purpose in his advisory role.”