The departures of Mr. Spielvogel, 65, and Andrew Cracknell, creative director of Bates Worldwide, Bates USA and Bates Dorland in London until earlier this month, are unrelated. But both longtime executives leave disenchanted and displaced by agency politics under Worldwide CEO Michael Bungey.
Mr. Spielvogel, the agency's chairman, has had no operational responsibilities since relinquishing the CEO title to Mr. Bungey in December. Mr. Spielvogel's decision to leave before his contract expires at yearend is likely to have little impact on the agency, with worldwide billings of $5.1 billion.
What's more likely to sting Bates is a lawsuit that Mr. Cracknell said he will file against the agency today in central London's High Court. The expected suit follows a breakdown in negotiations about his severance terms.
Mr. Cracknell, 48, left after a dispute with Mr. Bungey about the creative executive's future role at the agency. Mr. Cracknell, a seven-year Bates veteran, was the most senior of three Britons Mr. Bungey brought in late last year to help him rejuvenate the New York office. Planner Les Stern returned to London last summer and operations manager Roy Powell has left the agency altogether.
"It was the fiefdoms," Mr. Cracknell said in an interview from his London home. "People were pleasant ... They just didn't need me."
At the center of the dispute is the contract he signed with the agency when he moved to New York. Mr. Cracknell maintains the pact gave him the option of returning to London full time in his original job as Bates Dorland creative chief.
Mr. Cracknell said Mr. Bungey refused to honor that contract and Bates Dorland now has a new creative head.
"I've been treated as if I've done something wrong," he said. "All I asked was for my contract to be honored."
A spokesman at Bates parent Saatchi in London refused to comment beyond acknowledging the contract dispute.
"Andrew decided the States weren't for him," Mr. Bungey said when reached in Barcelona, where he was traveling last week. "It didn't work out and that's it. His departure will have no impact on Bates offices anywhere."
Mr. Bungey, himself a Briton, was named president-chief operating officer of the worldwide agency in January 1993. His charge was to improve Bates' bottom line and creative reputation. He has achieved half that goal.
"The agency has never been in better shape from an operations point of view," said an executive close to Bates. "But the team he put in [in New York] failed. That's clear.
"The organizational structure has stabilized, but the players that will lead the agency for the next five years aren't there ... There's a difference between a manager and a leader, and he's an excellent manager."
Mr. Bungey, contacted before word of the suit surfaced, refused to discuss details of Mr. Cracknell's departure but said his exit was the only move at the agency that was not fully orchestrated.
"The only wild card in the pack was Andrew," Mr. Bungey said. "Bates is running like clockwork."
Indeed, Mr. Spielvogel's bow out of the agency-and the advertising industry that has made his name synonymous with Madison Avenue-is viewed as that of a former leading man orchestrating his curtain call before a forced finale.
"Carl probably wanted to leave on his terms, not Saatchi's," said Al Achenbaum, an advertising consultant and longtime friend of Mr. Spielvogel.
Mr. Spielvogel, a onetime ad columnist for The New York Times, formed Backer & Spielvogel, the agency that evolved into Backer Spielvogel Bates, in 1979. Saatchi bought the agency in 1986 and it was later merged with Ted Bates Worldwide. This year, Mr. Bungey retired the agency's first two names, a move that rankled Mr. Spielvogel and most likely hastened his departure.
Mr. Spielvogel said he is leaving early to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities outside the industry. He said he hopes to decide on a new career within weeks.
"This is confirmation that the age of cobbled-together agencies is gone," James Dougherty, an analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds, said of Mr. Spielvogel's departure. "This is symbolic of the old order passing."
Indeed, Mr. Spielvogel-who collected $1.1 million last year as one of the industry's highest-paid executives-was among the last agency chieftains whose liveried valets, chauffeured sedan and regular mentions in society columns were more typical of an earlier era.
Per his parting contract, Mr. Spielvogel said he will remain available to Saatchi, not Bates Worldwide, as a consultant until 1996. That relationship is expected to be his only advertising affiliation.
"After 35 years in the agency business, it's time to do something else," he said. "I've had a remarkable career."
Laurel Wentz contributed to this story.