Franco President to Retire, New Leader Named


DETROIT —  Maria Leonhauser, far left, president of Franco Public Relations Group will retire at the end of the year. Native Detroiter Tina Kozak, right, executive vice president and chief operating officer, will succeed Leonhauser as Franco’s president effective Jan 1. 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 Peoplemagazines.

“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.