James Agnew, 66, who became one of the youngest executives to run a major advertising agency with a worldwide reach, died of pancreatic cancer Monday at his home in Sun Valley, Idaho, announced his wife, Ann.
A Midwesterner, Agnew began his advertising career in 1962 doing research at J. Walter Thompson in New York and working in Paris before joining the Los Angeles office of another agency, McCann-Erickson. He moved to New York to become president of the agency’s U.S. operations in 1979, the year he turned 40.
When his family expressed a preference to live in Los Angeles, Agnew left the advertising business in 1981 and joined Maguire Partners, a commercial real estate development firm in L.A.
He let it be known that he missed the ad agency life, and rejoined J. Walter Thompson, running its Western operation from 1982 to 1990.
“It was great,” he said in 1989. “I was back in the industry I loved, living in the city I loved to live in and working for the agency I knew best.”