In Memoriam: Rich Klein, October 12, 2014
RICHARD E. KLEIN, co-founder of one of the Southwest's largest independently owned advertising agencies and a passionate chairman for a foundation dedicated to providing communications scholarships to aspiring students, passed away Sunday the 12th of October 2014.
Rich co-founded Fogarty & Klein in 1980, an agency that would become Houston's largest, one that attracted Fortune 500 clients while bringing national recognition to the Houston ad industry. That agency still thrives today as The Company of Others, where Rich continued to work up until his passing.
The careers of countless advertising professionals have been nurtured by Rich, who also worked tirelessly to give aspiring marketing communications students a leg up on their careers. As Chairman of the Advertising Education Foundation of Houston (AEFH), and former chair of American Advertising Federation-Houston (AAF-Houston), Rich helped build more than $300,000 in scholarship assets to support advertising's future stars.
But there's far more to Rich than building a successful, 34-year-old agency, vetting and awarding scholarships, and fostering an internship program that is one of the most sought-after in the business.
Married 58 years to Sheilla Traynor, Rich relied on his trusted partner as an advisor and lifelong soul mate.
As an entrepreneur, this Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame inductee, AAF Silver Medal winner and Spirit of AFF-Houston honoree was an evangelist for mid-sized independent agencies. Rich long espoused the value a multi-disciplined, locally owned agency can bring to national and super-regional clients. Dozens of independent agency heads have followed Rich's leadership and guidance as former president of both MAGNET (Marketing and Advertising Global Network) and MAAN (Mutual Advertising Network ) to implement his best practices - and, perhaps more importantly, his shared aspirations to reach for and obtain national accounts.
If there was ever a story about Rich Klein that demonstrates his loyalty to the ad industry, to keeping people employed, to innovating and improving the business, it is this one. At his peak as an ad man - the agency drawing accounts from both coasts in search of advertising that worked - Rich and his partner Bill Fogarty sold their agency, with $250MM in annual billings, to a renowned New York shop. A Chicago branch was set to open, complementing the agency's offices in Houston, Austin and Dallas.
The New York shop soon tumbled into financial trouble and closure of the esteemed Southwest agency was eminent. Instead of riding into the sunset, Rich and his partner did something most would consider insurmountable. They bought their agency back. Then brought it back from the brink. Some 200 ad professionals kept their jobs. And Rich, Mr. Fogarty, then Chief Creative Officer Tom Monroe and their family of ad professionals stayed hard at work, rebuilding the agency's business and winning over more national clients.
It was "The best damn agency in Houston," employees liked to say, and many would call it their second family. The agency supported clients like Waste Management (Fortune 200), ConAgra (Chef Boyardee, PAM, RoTel, Ranch Style Beans), Advance Auto Parts (Fortune 500), Popeye's, Builders Square, Mattress Firm, BFI, Randall's Supermarkets, Shiner Beer, Mission Foods, Clockwork, Amegy Bank and ConocoPhillips by building a completely integrated shop - boasting a comprehensive and innovative list of award-winning services few if any mid-sized independent agencies could offer.
Rich believed in giving a "hand up," not just a "hand out." And his commitment to keeping advertising thriving may be Rich's enduring legacy. Since 1991, the agency has awarded scholarships to qualified college advertising students in Texas and Oklahoma schools. As Chairman of AEFH Houston, Rich's leadership helped build a scholarship award fund that is unsurpassed in AEHF's history.
A favorite quote of Rich's says it all: "If you do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." Driven to provide a successful future for his agency, family, friends and associates, Rich was a like a dog with a bone; once he envisioned something, he wasn't going to quit it.
In 1956, with a fresh degree in communications from Northwestern University, the Golden, Colorado native married Sheilla, a beautiful redhead and gifted singer. Both loved music; with a fondness for jazz, Rich played standup bass in a college combo where the couple met when Sheilla sat in to sing. After a stint in Baltimore, the young couple in 1958 landed in the southern Arizona desert, Rich serving in intelligence for the U.S. Army at Ft. Huachuca, where son Mark was born in an Army hospital, which billed Rich $11 for the privilege.
Pillsbury sales soon called and Rich - true to his favorite quote - began doing something different every few years, always seeking new opportunities to better his family. They moved to Peoria, Illinois, then on to Rockford, Illinois, where daughter Kristen was born in 1961. Toddlers in tow, the young Kleins moved to Mount Prospect, Illinois, before Rich picked up the family again for a brand management position with Pillsbury in Minneapolis. Then Rich moved to Omaha to work with Fairmont Foods before arriving in Chicago to manage Quaker's pet foods and corn products divisions. While at Quaker, Rich earned a PMD from Harvard University (and was a longtime Harvard Business School Club member in Houston).
But in 1971, Rich found his home and never left. Houston captivated Rich and Sheilla as a place of promise. Rich first served as product manager for Riviana Foods then jumped sides, moving into ad agency work with Bozell Jacobs, where he met his business-partner-to-be Mr. Fogarty.
Soon they were plotting to open their own business. Mr. Monroe, a renowned creative director in Dallas, suggested naming their agency Fogarty & Klein, something Rich, jokingly, never forgave him for. It didn't take long for Houston brand stalwarts to sign on: James Coney Island, Pilgrim Cleaners, the Datsun (Nissan) dealers association and more. By the 1990s, through acquisition, new business and organic growth, the agency became Houston's largest. When it won the Builders Square national account, partly though Rich's dogged determination, the agency became the second-largest independently owned shop in the Southwest. Some 200 dedicated people would call the agency their home away from home.
Rich and Sheilla fell in love with rural Texas in the mid-1990s when they bought a special place they named "Sweet Meadow Farm." Rich planted and harvested native grasses. He farmed Coastal Bermuda from a hayfield known for producing some of the best feed around. For a time Rich raised cattle, who would crowd around his four-wheeler, knowing he had peppermints in hand.
Granddaughter Alexandra Carreno, Kristen's daughter, spent days on end at Sweet Meadow, learning to drive at a very young age, tooling around in a golf cart with her Lala. Later, grandkids Sarah and Cade, Mark and Elizabeth Leon's children, would do the same, Grandpa taking them for rides in the Gator, scouting sprawling fields of bluebonnets and wildflowers, interspersed with stately live oaks, lovingly cared for by Rich.
Music always played in the Klein home. Together, the devoted couple pursued Rich's love of California wine, gourmet home-cooked meals and good tunes.
Few in Southwest advertising have achieved so much. It was never enough for Rich Klein to have simply kept the agency open. Strong-willed and always focused on a goal, Rich was driven to offer the best shop around: he co-founded a top-50 agency; brought national recognition to the Houston advertising industry - feeding the local economy and a host of production and print companies; and won clients through persistence and by always sharing ideas, not sales pitches. All the while committed to supporting non-profits through pro-bono work.
It's been a long voyage from the day Rich and his partner left their jobs at Bozell & Jacobs to start a business with no business. With kids headed to college. With mortgages to pay. With a global recession biting at their heels. Lucky for advertising, Rich stayed true to his vision, creating the best, darn agency in Houston, one with a rich legacy of innovation and accomplishment- and, most significantly, engaging programs that have inspired young people to become advertising pros like himself.
Rich is survived by his wife Sheilla; daughter Kristen Carreno; son Mark and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Klein; grandchildren Alex Carreno, Sarah and Cade Klein; and sisters Cindy Juress and Nancy Working.
To his family, Rich is their hero. Friends are cordially invited to join them in celebrating his life at two o'clock in the afternoon, Thursday, the 23rd of October 2014, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. The Salvation Army Harbor Light Choir will be performing at three- quarters after one o'clock in the afternoon. Immediately following the service, all are invited to greet the family during an ice cream social to be held in the adjacent grand foyer.
In lieu of customary remembrances, The Klein family is requesting, memorial contributions be directed to The Rich Klein Communications Scholarship, Advertising Education Foundation (AEFH); P.O. Box 27592, Houston, TX 77227.
Published in Houston Chronicle on Oct. 19, 2014