Ranked by 1999 L.A. County revenues


Retained executive search firms are employment consultants hired to fill senior-level positions, typically with starting salaries of more than $100,000. While contingency search firms get paid only if and when they fill a position, retained firms charge a fee regardless of the outcome of the search.

Although the Web business exploded last year, leading to a jump in demand for experienced executives, the hiring surge didn't seem to have much impact on the retained search business in L.A. County combined 1999 revenues at the 15 companies on the list rose only 3 percent over 1998. This is due in part to competition from Internet sites, which allow job seekers to post their resumes online, rather than pursuing the more traditional search firm path.

Industries that traditionally use search firms include technology, Internet and manufacturing services. U.S. companies with international offices also frequently use search firms to locate executives willing to work abroad.


Heidrick & Struggles

The 20th century went out like a lion for Heidrick & Struggles. It not only acquired executive search firm Sullivan & Co., merged with European partner H.S.I. and launched an Internet recruiting initiative, its stock price has jump more than three times over its initial public offering price of $14 per share in March 1999. The company is now the largest retained executive search firm in the world.

Founded in Chicago in 1953, Heidrick and Struggles has more than 800 executive search professionals working in 70 locations throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. In the past year, Heidrick and Struggles has conducted more than 6,110 searches for senior-level executives in all industries. It recorded U.S. revenue growth of 34.3 percent in 1999 and worldwide growth of 27.5 percent.

The international demand for executive search services is increasing due to renewed business confidence in Mexico and Brazil, resurgence of Asian economies and rise of the European Union as a technology economy.

Thomas Mitchell, the firm's top executive in L.A. County, recognizes the threat of competition from dot-coms that serve job and employee seekers, but says these sites are really only effective for middle-market personnel. "High-caliber executive talent cannot be automated or digitized," because "cultural fit is such a huge element" in placing top-level management positions, he said.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.