Leo was a visionary in the world of advertising and marketing. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of Bozell Worldwide (Advertising), Inc. and, previously, was Chairman and CEO of Kenyon & Eckhardt, Inc. (K&E). He also held senior management positions at Norman, Craig & Kummel and Lennen & Newell, where he began his career in the mailroom. In addition, he served as Chairman of Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide and, until recently, was executive advisor to David Bell, then Chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG).
As CEO of K&E, and as an advisor to Lee Iacocca, Leo contributed significantly to the turnaround of Chrysler Corporation in 1979, by creating the ad campaign that helped to revive the ailing company and reshape its image. He was credited for restoring Chrysler’s reputation in the eyes of the industry and the car-buying public. In his illustrious career, he also created highly successful ad campaigns for other leading automotive companies, such as Ford, General Motors, Daimler-Chrysler and Mitsubishi.
Additionally, Leo served on the boards of many public companies, including Lorimar Telepictures, Online Software, and True North Communications. He also received numerous honors and awards for his service outside of the advertising industry, including the Guggenheim World Peace Award (1951), the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Award as The Outstanding Young Man of 1955 in charity, art, athletics and business thus upholding Theodore Roosevelt’s belief that, “No man be dedicated to one venture or activity but to maintain a multitude of endeavors which each in its own way leads to the enrichment of human life.”
Mr. Kelmenson was awarded the Silver Quill Poetry Award in 1955 for ‘Epilogue”, a book of poetry, reflecting his wartime experiences, the American Jewish Committee’s Human Relations Award, the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Award (1989) and the Reserve Officers Association Award (1963). In the early 60’s, he served in the White House as the Special Project Officer for the U.S. Department of State under President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. And, in the 1990’s, he served as Chairman of the Board of the Development Committee at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts.
Born in New York City, Leo served with the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II First Parachute Division in the Pacific Theatre, South Pacific operations. He was awarded the Navy and Marine medal, the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a Meritorious Unit Citation for bravery on the battlefield and was a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel.
He graduated from Columbia University and studied at the Career Diplomat School of the University of Geneva. Leo was also a noted philanthropist, having supported numerous charities and causes. He served on the Boards of Directors of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the President’s Council of the American Diabetes Association, the National Cancer Foundation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Foundation, the United States Olympic Committee, and the Advertising Club of New York. He was a founding member of the African Medical & Research Foundation and Dr. Armand Hammer’s Stop Cancer Foundation. Leo was also a member of the Sands Point Yacht Club and the United States Yacht Racing Association.
Leo died peacefully at his Remsenburg home, Land’s End, on August 30, 2011 at the age of 84.
He is survived by his beloved wife Gayle, their daughter, Philippa, his sons, Todd and Joel, and two grandchildren, Lana and Kyle.