Sunday, April 14, 2024

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The Other Female Westport CEO on a National Magazine Cover This Week

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Westport’s Ann Fudge is BusinessWeek’s cover story this week. BusinessWeek photo
Which female Westport CEO is on the cover of a national magazine this week? If you guessed Martha Stewart, you’d be right but thanks to Ann Fudge, it’s not the only correct answer.

BusinessWeek features Fudge in a cover story that states: “Ann Fudge’s two-year break from work changed her life. Will those lessons help her fix Young & Rubicam?”

In May, 2003, the 52-year-old Fudge was named chairman and CEO of what is now called Young & Rubicam Brands, as well as Y&R, its flagship ad agency. (See WestportNow May 13, 2003).

It was a news-making appointment ֖ she became the first black woman to head a large ad agency and the first appointed with a marketing background but no Madison Avenue experience.

And she did it after an almost two-year hiatus from the business world.

“In February, 2001, Ann Fudge did something that has become achingly common among high-powered career women. She quit,” reported BusinessWeek.

“After a quarter-century as a rising star in Corporate America and just one year after she had been promoted to run a $5 billion division of Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT ), Fudge walked away.

“She didn’t do it for her two sons, who were already grown and embarked on careers of their own. She didn’t do it to accept another turnaround challenge, building on her reputation for reviving brands from Minute Rice to Maxwell House.

“Like a number of her peers, she simply wanted to define herself by more than her professional status, considerable as it was, and financial rewards, sizable as they were.”

“It was definitely not dissatisfaction,” Fudge told the magazine. “It was more about life.”

“For Fudge, that meant cycling around Sardinia and going to movies on Sunday nights,” BusinessWeek said.

“It meant finally enjoying her Westport (Conn.) home, where she had done little more than grab a few hours sleep amid the grind of corporate life ‘things like going out on the deck and writing in my journal.’

“It meant rising to do yoga instead of racing to work, reading books about moving the soul instead of moving products, and sitting down to dinner with her husband, Rich, instead of grabbing a slice of pizza at the office.

“And, perhaps most refreshing for a woman cast as a role model for much of her career, it meant anonymity.

“I loved it. You drop off the map, and nobody cares about you anymore,” Fudge said.

The magazine said Fudge’s 10 months on the job have won over many employees and clients, but not all.

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