BATES CEO DENIES HYUNDAI TALKS

Incumbent Agency out of $290 Million Media Review

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Bates USA CEO Bill Whitehead denied he went to South Korea to meet with Hyundai executives to try to to defend his agency's U.S. media-buying assignment for Hyundai Motor America.

Executives close to the situation said Mr. Whitehead made an unsuccessful eleventh-hour bid to keep the business.

Mr. Whitehead

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told AdAge.com he went to Tokyo in December but for internal meetings with Bates' Korea agency. He said Hyundai executives did not ask to see him.

Seoul executives want to combine the estimated $290 million U.S. media buying for Hyundai and sibling Kia Motors America Co. The winner is also now expected to get Hyundai's $70 million local dealer group media account.

Aegis Group's Carat USA is considered the front-runner against remaining contender independent Horizon Media, both New York. Cordiant Communications Group's Bates West, Irvine, Calif., was not included in the review but was said to be trying to get into it.

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