OBITUARIES : Tom Sutton

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Tom Sutton was a man of vast achievements in the world of advertising - in Germany, in London, in New York and Tokyo; he was also a man of bewildering variety: of driving curiosity, dynamic energy, competitiveness, loyalty, respect and affection for people, wisdom, humour, modesty, impatience and a touch of eccentricity.

Born in Berlin of Austrian parents, Sutton was despatched to England in 1938, aged 15. He was at school in Worcester before reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics at St Peter's Hall, Oxford, where he ran the 100 and 220 yards for the university.

When he joined the London office of the J. Walter Thompson Company in 1959, it was a somewhat paternalistic advertising agency, full of men and women of character and ability each fiercely conscious of JWT's stature in the London advertising world. Yet Sutton's brief as the new managing director was to take this successful company (whose supremacy was then being questioned), shake it and prepare it for the challenges of the late Sixties and Seventies.

Not without some axe-wielding and some grief among JWT's staff in Berkeley Square, Sutton did it. He set up the management team of Jeremy Bullmore as creative director and Stephen King as head of marketing which led to one of the most remarkable periods of growth experienced by any advertising agency. Over his six years as London's managing director, billings nearly doubled, staff numbers rose by only 7 per cent and morale soared.

All this London success followed Sutton's building up of the Frankfurt office between 1952 and 1959 from nothing to a leading advertising agency of 250 people (a saga in itself) and preceded his departure for New York in 1966 as JWT's executive vice-president international. "US finds room at the top for restless Briton," declared the Times. His years in this post were marked by his ability to stir, to stimulate, to create and to motivate the leaders and thinkers of the future.

Tom Sutton was nominated International Advertising Man of the Year in 1970. Then, when the path to the very top seemed sure, fate struck and he underwent the first of two serious brain-tumour operations. His courage and determination saw him through. He stepped down from his international job and took on JKT Tokyo. His early years there were not easy. The unions, initially hostile, had to be won over - and were. And both he and the agency thrived. He also acquired his Japanese wife, his much -loved Maki.

Tom Sutton in his retirement was every bit as questing, ebullient and marvellous company as in his working life. Those ex-JWT friends who live near his Warwickshire home found that many of their country pleasures circled round Tom and Maki. When six of us - two husbands, four wives - discovered over a pub lunch that we were all Aquarians, Tom it was who then and there founded the North Cotswold Aquarian Society. It has since met annually for a celebratory Aquarian lunch.

Tom Sutton collected elephants: on his ties, on his writing paper, on his mantelshelf, everywhere. Any friend who spotted a promising new elephant rang Tom and within a matter of hours he had visited the source and purchased yet another trophy.

Jean Currie Reute Thomas Francis Sutton, advertising executive: born Berlin 9 February 1923; married 1950 Ann Fleming (one son; two daughters; marriage dissolved 1974), 1982 Maki Watanabe; died Willington, Warwickshire 9 December 1994.

Comments