BLOCKBUSTER NAMES GABE MARKETING CHIEF

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With the recent hiring of a senior marketing executive, Blockbuster Entertainment Group revived speculation that a review could lie ahead for at least part of its $100 million-plus account.

Rich Gabe, 42, took the new post of senior VP-strategic marketing. He comes from Gabe Consulting Group, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which he opened after leaving as general manager-creative director with the local service office of Bernstein-Rein, Kansas City, Mo. That agency lost the Blockbuster account to D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, in December 1993.

One former Blockbuster executive said the account shift to DMB&B was the work of then-Chief Marketing Officer Jim Hilmer, who resigned last July, leaving DMB&B without a "champion" at the client. Asked whether a review could be forthcoming, Tom Gruber, former senior VP-chief marketing officer, said "draw your own conclusions. There was no reason to replace [Bernstein-Rein]."

Bernstein-Rein President Bob Bernstein, who's also a leading Blockbuster shareholder with 25 outlets, said he knew of Mr. Gabe's appointment but had heard nothing from Blockbuster about a review. "I don't know that there's an inevitable review," Mr. Bernstein said. "They've given me no indication that they're going to review it."

Charlie Claggett, managing director-chief creative officer with DMB&B's St. Louis office, said he came away with a similar impression from a March 1 meeting with Mr. Gabe.

Mr. Gabe didn't return calls.

Speculation about a review quieted down when Viacom acquired Blockbuster last September. As recently as late last fall, those familiar with the situation said fallout from the buyout-and the lack of a senior marketing exec to lead the charge-made a review unlikely.

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