JeffreyGroup Founder Jeffrey Sharlach to Retire
JeffreyGroup Founder, Jeffrey Sharlach,
to Retire from Agency in March
Brian Burlingame, CEO Since 2015, Continues as Chief Executive
January 10, 2024, Miami, FL — Jeffrey Sharlach has announced he’ll be stepping down from JeffreyGroup, the Latin American agency he founded more than 30 years ago, at the end of March. During his 47-year PR agency career, he held leadership positions at Carl Byoir & Associates (today part of Hill & Knowlton), Burson-Marsteller (now BCW) and Saatchi & Saatchi in New York City before launching JeffreyGroup in Miami in 1993.
At the time, most Miami agencies focused on local tourism and real estate, but Sharlach had been working exclusively on international programs at Saatchi & Saatchi and was aware that many multinationals were looking at South Florida as a regional base for Latin America. When Saatchi management decided not to act on his proposal to open a Latin America-focused operation in Miami, Sharlach left his job and moved to Miami to launch his own consultancy.
Today, JeffreyGroup is the leading agency in the region with hundreds of employees in six owned offices serving top global brands including Airbus, Amazon, American Airlines, Bayer, Disney, Marriott, Mastercard and Salesforce. “It was the classic story of being in the right place at the right time,” said Sharlach looking back. I’m not sure if it was brave or crazy at the time to think I could start a Latin American business without speaking Spanish or Portuguese.”
In short order, JeffreyGroup became the go-to firm known for its award-winning programs and ability to service multiple markets from Miami with a strategic and cost-effective regional approach. JeffreyGroup opened its first office outside the U.S. in Buenos Aires in 1996, followed by Mexico City in 1997 and São Paulo in 1998.
Jeffrey meets Pelé at the 1998 World Cup, sponsored
by long-time JeffreyGroup client Mastercard
“From the outset, it was clear to me that if we were going to compete successfully with the big agencies, we needed to differentiate ourselves in the way that we worked rather than the actual services,” Sharlach said. “For JeffreyGroup, that meant focusing on client service, being proactive, and committed to delivering meaningful results, with senior professionals that stay close to the clients.” Those key principles are codified in The JeffreyGroup Way, the company’s client service principles continually reinforced with all employees.
Sharlach, who serves as Chairman of JeffreyGroup, stepped down as CEO in 2015, handing the reins to Brian Burlingame, who continues to run the agency.
“The huge advances in technology since I started my first agency job in 1997 have made this a very exciting time to be in the communications business,” Sharlach said. “And particularly to watch JeffreyGroup evolve over the past three decades.”
“Initially it was all about media relations and the focus was on execution since clients placed a huge value on the ability to get news distributed quickly throughout Latin America,” Sharlach recalled. Now the heaviest demand is for strategic planning and stakeholder engagement, especially in areas of social impact and public affairs, as well as creative marketing communications support. “Over time we’ve become much more focused on the thinking rather than the things.”
In 2022, JeffreyGroup was acquired by WPP and became part of Hill & Knowlton (H&K). At that time, Burlingame became CEO of H&K Latin America in addition to his CEO role at JeffreyGroup. “This year seemed like the perfect time to retire from JeffreyGroup,” Sharlach said. “We’ve successfully transitioned from private ownership to proudly being part of WPP and H&K, offering our clients access to an expanding range of world-class resources, especially in data intelligence, and providing exciting career pathways for our staff and additional services for our clients.”
Sharlach moved back to New York City in 2006 when JeffreyGroup launched an office there. He’s been teaching in the MBA program at the NYU Stern School of Business since 2007 and will continue on the faculty of the Management Communication Department there as well as dedicating time to his various charitable activities in New York.