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Franco President Maria Leonhauser to Retire in December

DETROIT (Nov. 11, 2013) – Detroit-based Franco Public Relations Group today announced that President Maria Leonhauser will retire at the end of 2013. Native Detroiter Tina Kozak, executive vice president and chief operating officer, will succeed Leonhauser as Franco’s president effective January 1, 2014. Leonhauser will continue as a consultant with Franco.

Leonhauser joined Franco as president in 2000 after 25 years in journalism and corporate communications. During her tenure, she focused on diversifying Franco’s client base and imbuing its culture with creativity and passion. She also championed Franco’s social media discipline.

She is a member of the boards of the College for Creative Studies and Inforum. She has also served on numerous committees including The University of Michigan – Dearborn Citizens Advisory Committee and the American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign. Among her awards, Leonhauser was named one of Detroit’s 100 Most Influential Women by Crain’s Detroit Business and a Leader and Innovator by Lawrence Technological University and Grant Thornton.

Before joining Franco, Leonhauser was communications director for Volkswagen and Audi in North America. As a journalist she worked at The Bulletin in Philadelphia, The Sacramento Bee and Time and People magazines.

“Franco’s priority has always been service excellence,” said Dan Ponder, Franco’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Maria instilled a new energy and enthusiasm into its delivery. I’m confident that Tina will not only advance our commitment to service excellence, but also identify other relevant initiatives to better serve our clients and employees.”

Kozak joined Franco in 2007 as an account manager overseeing the firm’s automotive practice. In her most recent role as executive vice president and chief operating officer, she has led client service, talent retention and business development. She counsels a range of clients in the auto/tech, healthcare and professional service industries in areas including corporate positioning, community relations and reputation management. She also consults on brand development, crisis communications and strategic planning.

Before joining Franco, Kozak served as corporate communications manager for global auto supplier Metaldyne. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a dual major in Public Relations and Spanish from Wayne State University. She is also a graduate of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Leadership Detroit XXXIII. She is an active member of the Detroit Economic Club and the Automotive Press Association. Kozak serves on the board of directors for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the March of Dimes Metro Detroit. She chairs the Belle Isle Conservancy’s marketing committee and is on the PR Advisory Council at the Detroit Regional Chamber. She resides in Grosse Pointe Park with her husband and two daughters.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to step into this leadership role as the agency enters its 50th year,” said Kozak. “I have enjoyed working with Maria as we’ve implemented this transition plan over the last year and a half. Maria’s commitment to excellence is a hallmark of the Franco culture, and it will continue under my leadership.”

“In 2014 Franco will celebrate 50 years in business in Detroit,” said Leonhauser. “It’s the right time for me to hand my agency responsibilities over to Tina. It’s been a great experience supporting our clients and the Franco team. And while I will continue to support the agency and its clients as a consultant, I will also take my words and ideas in another direction – writing mysteries. “

About Franco
Established in Detroit in 1964, Franco is a full service public relations agency that represents clients in the manufacturing, technology, nonprofit, professional services, health care and consumer industries. Through media outreach, community relations, social media and events (and always with a heavy dose of creativity), Franco helps its clients build their brand, raise awareness and connect with their audiences. For more information, visit www.franco.com.