Remembering Jim McManus

In the 1970s and ’80s, Westport was known as “the marketing capital of the world.” An inordinate number of marketing companies was headquartered here.

Perhaps the best known was Marketing Corporation of America. Founded by Jim McManus in 1971, it was a behemoth. It also served as an incubator for other creative marketers, who went on to create their own companies, right here in town.

McManus died last week at his home in Fairfield. He was 84.

Jim McManus

Like many Westport marketers, McManus began his career with Procter & Gamble. He went on to build the first integrated marketing services firm to serve Fortune 50 consumer companies. Between 1971 and 1997 — when it was sold to the Interpublic Group — MCA grew into a $500 million enterprise. Clients included Frito-Lay, IBM, Quaker Oats, Lipton, Procter & Gamble, Lorillard, FedEx, Saab and Dunkin’ Donuts.

McManus’ firm provided strategic consulting, market research, advertising, sales promotion programs and venture capital. It was the model for many marketing companies that followed — in Westport, and around the world.

In 1985, MCA gave the town a gift for our 150th anniversary: a 30-minute video. “Westport’s Got it All” includes cameos by famous local residents: Harry Reasoner. Joanne Woodward. Rodney Dangerfield.

And “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” host Jim McKay — whose real name was also James McManus.

(Services for MCA’s McManus were private. Donations in his name can be made by clicking here. Specify “McManus Center, Kellogg Student Programs.”)

17 responses to “Remembering Jim McManus

  1. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Do they still own every building on Riverside from Sylvan Road to Treadwell?

  2. Joan Hume-Cohen

    I had the pleasure of hosting so many programs at Westport Library in the room that bore his name “The McManus Room”. While I never met him, I thank him for funding a space that brought so much pleasure and entertainment and education to do many. My condolences to his friends and family.

  3. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    Great guy, He almost hired me a couple of years after they opened, best interview I ever had.

  4. Celeste Champagne

    Is that 30-minute video, “Westport’s Got It All”, available for viewing?

  5. There is also a performance space in the library named for MacManus

  6. What a wonderful film, “Westport’s Got It All”. Makes me nostalgic for some of the long gone stores and restaurants: Allen’s, Pearl’s, Kleins, Remarkable. I didn’t grow up in Westport, but I did spend a number of years there when I was in my late 20s and early 30s. Some of the happiest years of my life! Thanks Jim McManus for the film, and for all you and MCA did for the town. RIP.

  7. Andrew Colabella

    If you haven’t already fallen in love with this town, that video will make you. The abundance of history, respect, passion and beauty is overwhelming. Seeing the old main st front and Mobil gas station on the corner by brooks corner across from where Westport Pizza once was, or the little house outside the sailing school on the beach, the old Bedford middle school, and Compo…I could watch this over and over. Rodney Dangerfield, the best!

  8. How I love that old video!

  9. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    A magnificent gift to the town. So many wonderful memories. The Memorial day parade route is different than in my day of marching as a Girl Scout but the Veterans, Staples Band and so may others are still represented. The Bedford Elementary School stage is recognizable even though I know it is now City Hall. So many wonderful memories. I had to scroll through the credits several times to see them all. I had to smile when I saw Ina Bradley. Bonnie must have been delighted to have her mom contribute. The Bradley’s have been important if quiet supporters to Westport for generations.

  10. Bonnie Bradley

    Ah, Mary…if you only knew.

  11. If I’m not mistaken, Jim McManus (MCA) set aside the money for the lights at Staples..way back when..

  12. That should read lights for the football field..

  13. While it might not win a Grammy, is that Neil Sedaka’s daughter that is singing??

  14. Kathy (Verina) Stuart

    I am so fortunate to have two of my children in the movie, my son Ernie was called upon in his class at Kings Highway elementary, smiling with a purple shirt on and missing a few front teeth, my daughter Mercedes can be seen earlier in a segment on Beach School standing in front of the beach at Compo surrounded by her fellow campers while brushing the sand off her white dress, turning around once to see the photographer. And there were two shots I noted in particular of our restaurant now long gone: The Mansion Clam House in a picture at Town Hall and the other a video scan of the old restaurant itself…at 541 Riverside Ave now Parker House.
    I grew up in Westport, and my children were fortunate to be able to grow up here too. Wow, but our town, so much has changed.
    Kathy (Verina) Stuart