His grandfather Harry, the last mayor of Millard, led the fight against annexation by Omaha, but lost in 1971. His father, Harry Jr., ran Millard Electric, a presence in that community since 1946.
Now Greg Andersen, 48, is returning to Omaha after 23 years in New York City and three in Los Angeles to become chief executive of the Bailey Lauerman advertising agency, which was involved in a recent controversy.
Andersen has been facing a controversy of his own, filing a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination by his former employer’s CEO in California.
Andersen said he has talked through all the issues with Bailey Lauerman’s board of directors and is thrilled to return to his home city. His wife, Stephanie, and two daughters, ages 3 and 7, will join him soon.
“I’m very Nebraska proud,” he said, crediting his father and grandfather with showing him the importance of being part of a community and dealing with people properly.
“They taught me a lot about ethics and really gave me a fundamental belief that you can be successful in business and still be a good guy,” he said.
Andersen graduated from Creighton Prep and as an advertising major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then moved to New York City. “I wanted to see how far I could go in the business.”
He worked his way up to CEO of the Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty ad agency. When that company was sold, he moved to Los Angeles as president of RAPP U.S., a division of publicly traded Omnicom Group.
But he was fired in April.
According to industry publication AdWeek, Andersen filed a lawsuit alleging that RAPP CEO Alexei Orlov fired him in retaliation for reporting Orlov’s “destructive” behavior to an Omnicom attorney and to its top human resources officer.
The lawsuit alleged that Orlov created a “hostile work environment” and “demonstrated through his comments and actions that he harbored discriminatory animus against women and various racial and ethnic groups.”
RAPP has responded that Andersen’s position was eliminated and the company could not comment on the lawsuit further, adding: “RAPP has, and enforces, policies prohibiting discrimination and retaliation on the basis of gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other legally protected status.”
Andersen told The World-Herald on Friday that he couldn’t discuss the lawsuit specifically but that he strives “to bring integrity to all that I do.”
At Bailey Lauerman, Andersen succeeds Andy Fletcher, who left in July. Carter Weitz, chairman and chief creative officer for Bailey Lauerman, said Fletcher’s departure was not related to a controversy involving the Nebraska Tourism Commission, “a separate situation that our entire leadership team has addressed.”
In April, an audit of the Nebraska Tourism Commission showed financial and accountability problems under director Kathy McKillip, including overspending its contract with Baily Lauerman by $4.4 million over three years.
The audit also criticized the commission for receiving dozens of free meals from Bailey Lauerman, for improperly reimbursing the ad agency for alcohol and cigarettes and for using McKillip’s daughter in an advertising campaign.
Bailey Lauerman’s work for the commission included an advertising campaign titled “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice.”
In May the commission fired McKillip and appointed deputy director Heather Hogue as interim director. Bailey Lauerman continues its work with the commission.
Andersen said the matter was “an important point of discussion for myself and the board. Before joining, I discussed the situation in great detail with the board of directors.”
The ad agency and the commission now have systems and processes in place to prevent such things from happening again, he said.
“Certainly there were errors made by the agency that should not have happened,” Andersen said. “But I feel quite confident in the board’s response and how quickly and transparently they addressed the issue with the Tourism Commission.”
Other Bailey Lauerman clients include Cuties oranges, Panda Express, Disney, TD Ameritrade and Bass Pro Shops.
Andersen said Bailey Lauerman is going through a transition, with about 75 employees in Omaha and fewer than 10 finance staff in Lincoln. That’s about the same total staffers as when the agency began moving its main operations to Omaha in 2013.
Bailey Lauerman has a national reputation based on the quality of its work and is the right size to move quickly with consumers’ shifting behaviors and rapidly changing technology, he said.