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Harvard MBA Named New BCG Chief

The Boston Consulting Group announced today (May 19) that Richard I. Lesser, a Harvard MBA, has been elected its next President and Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2013. Lesser, 49, is currently BCG’s Chairman of North and South America, based in New York.

Lesser comes to the job with impressive credentials. Before being named regional chairman for the Americas in 2009, he had served as head of the New York Metro office system since 2000 and on the firm’s Executive Committee since 2006. His client work has focused on innovation, strategy, and large-scale transformation in the health care and consumer sectors. In 2009, Consulting magazine named him one of the industry’s most influential consultants.

Prior to joining BCG in 1988, Lesser worked in product development at Procter & Gamble. He earned an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, and a BSE in chemical engineering summa cum laude from the University of Michigan. He is married with three children.

Lesser succeeds Hans-Paul Bürkner, 59, who will become Chairman next year after completing nine years as President and CEO. Under Bürkner’s leadership, the firm has nearly tripled its revenues to $3.55 billion and nearly doubled its staff to 8,400. It has opened 17 new offices worldwide and established itself as a full-service management consultancy with global reach.

“BCG has been steadily gaining share on its competitors and is extremely well positioned to continue its growth trajectory,” said Bürkner, who as CEO is based in Frankfurt and New York, in a statement. “I have absolutely no doubt that with his inspiring leadership, Rich will bring many new ideas and take BCG to the next level.”

When German-born Bürkner, a Rhodes Scholar and former global leader of the firm’s Financial Institutions practice, took the reins in 2004, he became BCG’s first non-U.S.-born CEO. In 2003, the year of his election, Consulting magazine ranked him the industry’s number-one most influential consultant.

BCG’s partner group, numbering more than 700, elected Lesser in a multiround selection process that is unusually democratic. Unlike the process at the firm’s main competitors, each BCG partner, regardless of seniority, has one vote in the CEO election, as well as in other major management decisions. It is a reflection of BCG’s collaborative, nonhierarchical culture.

BCG was founded in 1963 by the late Bruce Henderson, who led the firm until 1980, when he became Chairman of the Board and was succeeded by Alan Zakon. Zakon was followed by John Clarkeson, who was CEO from 1986 to 1997 and later Chairman, and then by Carl Stern, who was CEO from 1998 to 2003 and later Chairman.

Lesser will be taking over as BCG prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. He will face a challenging economic climate but also many new opportunities stemming from the firm’s geographic expansion, breadth of industry knowledge, and depth of functional expertise. BCG differentiates itself through its highly customized and innovative solutions, mobilization of the client organization at all levels, and development of client capabilities.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected as BCG’s next CEO,” said Lesser in a statement. “Hans-Paul Bürkner has created a superb platform on which to build. Working with him and the rest of the partner group, I look forward to broadening and deepening our expertise, strengthening our client relationships globally, and expanding opportunities for our people—all the while maintaining our unique culture, heritage of thought leadership, and stellar reputation as a best place to work.”