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Denver’s Own Advertising Mad Man, Tom Hagan, Passes Away at 92

June 6, 2024

June 28, 2023

Written By:

Camille Ziccardi

Denver, June 27, 2023 -- Local Ad Man, business leader, and namesake of Karsh Hagan, one of the region’s most respected and largest advertising agencies, Tom Hagan, recently passed away in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. According to his oldest daughter, Kathy Hagan,  Hagan passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s, maintaining his sense of humor until the age of 92.

Born April 4, 1931, in Covington, Kentucky, Hagan was a Korean War veteran who attended Wayne State University in Detroit under the GI Bill. Hagan started his career in PR, working on newsletters and at a few national agencies before landing at Campbell Ewald Marketing Communications firm in Detroit as Executive Creative Director on the Chevrolet automobile account.  After vacationing in Colorado, he knew Denver was where he wanted to raise his family and advance his career. With a resume in hand, Hagan landed a job as the first Creative Director in Denver at Frye-Sills Advertising Agency. There, he met Phil Karsh and the two became fast friends; the rest is history.

On November 1, 1977, Hagan and Karsh decided to go on their own and created what is still known today as Karsh Hagan. The two grew the agency to become one of the most respected agencies in the region, with current annual billings of $80M. 

Surviving the ebbs and flows of the finicky ad business, the agency not only survived but it is also regarded as the region’s most successful ad agency. Hagan retired in 1996 when the agency’s reigns were taken over by Pocky Marranzino and in 2009 was joined by Hagan’s daughter, Kathy Hagan, who both currently serve as owners and co-CEOs.

“He was not only my dad and my best friend, but he was also my mentor,” said Kathy Hagan. “He taught me the ethics of business and life and set an example of hard work.  He encouraged me to be an entrepreneur and always promoted the ability to do anything.  He always had time for everyone who called him. His guidance and support allowed many to excel in the business, and I am humbled to have represented Dad and Phil’s legacy at Karsh Hagan.”  

He adored his family and was happiest when spending time with his grandchildren. Granddaughters, Kate Rundles said, “he exposed us to his love of travel, inspired us to be adventurous.” And Emily Rundles added, “he showed us the world and he encouraged us to put fun first, so we never had to ‘work’ a day in our lives.”

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For more than 46 years, the agency helped hundreds of Colorado businesses grow and prosper by providing big ideas that achieved unprecedented results. The agency also secured some of Colorado’s most coveted advertising accounts in the region. Including the Anschutz Medical Campus, Aspen Snowmass, Bank of Colorado, Colorado Lottery, The Colorado Tourism Office, Denver International Airport, McDonald’s, Pinnacle Bank, Steamboat, Telluride, Travel South Dakota, VISIT DENVER, to name a few.  

“Tom Hagan was an icon, and VISIT DENVER was fortunate to have worked with him and Phil,” said Richard Scharf, President and CEO of VISIT DENVER. “For many years we were a gateway to the Rockies, and his creative expertise put Denver on the map as a tourism destination,” 

With 70 full-time employees, the Colorado agency embraces a strong purpose of creating moments of elevation for brands while helping mentor and foster young, creative minds through an internship program that has spanned decades. If asked, most of the city's top advertising and public relations executives have worked at Karsh Hagan and with Tom Hagan. 

“He dedicated himself to helping aspiring young minds and encouraging up-and-coming talent to forge a way into the business,” said Pocky Marranzino, who has been with the agency for 41 years. “Hagan helped establish our Family, Fun, and Freedom culture. He was my friend and always said, ‘fun is where you find it.’” 

Hagan served on the Ronald McDonald House and the Colorado History Museum board, among others.  He could be seen visiting the agency into his late 80s, always humble and appreciative of the team's work. 

He is survived by his wife Pat Hagan, daughters Kathy Hagan, Kelly (Dean) Steppler, Sue (Mark) Heisterman, granddaughters Kate Rundles (Pasha) Tabatabai, Emily Rundles, Laney Steppler, Ali Steppler, Sarah Hagan and great-grandson, Zell Tabatabai.  

Also his stepdaughters Deanna (Vic) Brzeg, Lisa (Greg) Leder, grandchildren Britney (Christian) Dunn, Courtney Leder, Jacob Leder, Bryan Brzeg and Jason Brzeg and great-grandchildren Jack Dunn, Maggie Dunn, and Remy Brzeg.

And many nieces and nephews. Details of an upcoming service will be announced soon.