Ad agency Mullen appoints Leikikh as its new CEO

Boston advertising agency Mullen said Monday that it has promoted the firm’s president, Alex Leikikh, to chief executive, succeeding longtime CEO 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 hand picked Leikikh, 40, to succeed him as part of a carefully planned transition. The change went into effect Monday.

“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.”

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Grimaldi said he is proud of a number of accomplishments during his tenure. Mullen began in Wenham on Boston’s North Shore as 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 web site, “When I Grow Up,” featuring children whose aspiration was to dead-end careers as file clerks and middle managers.

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 CEO 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 CEO.

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

“My plan is attract the best talent and continue to attract clients who have challenger mindsets 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 that 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.”