Burson-Marsteller taps former Clinton adviser Don Baer as new CEO

Donald A. Baer, former communications director and speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, has been named chief executive of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, the company announced Thursday.

Baer, who was previously vice chairman and chief strategy officer in his four years at Burson-Marsteller, will continue to be based in Washington. He succeeds Mark Penn, Burson-Marsteller’s chief executive since 2005, who is joining Microsoft as corporate vice president for strategic and special projects.

“I’m very honored to be the person selected to be the new CEO,” Baer said. “Because we work so closely together, this is a seamless transition.”

Penn, who has been a consultant for Microsoft since 1998, will split his time between Washington and Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. He will report to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and lead an interdisciplinary team that will focus on consumer initiatives, the software giant said in a statement Thursday. Penn said his first project will be to build a team in Washington, most likely fewer than 10 people, that will focus on Bing search functions.

“We’re going to try to draw on the marketing and political talent here in the D.C. area,” Penn said. “It is not about public policy, it’ll be core consumer marketing.”

Burson-Marsteller has 73 offices worldwide and is a unit of London-based WPP, the world’s largest communications services group that owns several lobbying firms including Quinn Gillespie, Ogilvy Government Relations, Public Strategies Inc. and Prime Policy Group.

WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell said in a statement that he is “confident the firm’s track record of success and its reputation for delivering results for its clients will continue under Don Baer’s leadership.”

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.

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