Crawford juggles ads and opera

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Can Bruce Crawford juggle opera and advertising at the same time?

That's the question being asked of the 73-year-old chairman of Omnicom Group as he takes on the role of chairman of New York City's Lincoln Center. Some wonder whether wearing both hats best serves the interests of Omnicom, the beleaguered ad agency holding company whose stock nose-dived following a June report that questioned its accounting practices.

Logic would dictate Omnicom needs a more active chairman as it looks to regain credibility.

"You would think, right?" said a high-ranking executive at one of Omnicom's major global ad agencies. "I mean, things seem to be getting better for us, but investor confidence overall has been blown to bits, what with Enron and WorldCom and what not. You have to be careful here. You need Bruce out there, but if I read the paper correctly he has a tough road ahead of him with raising money for Lincoln Center. So if not Bruce, then [Omnicom President-CEO] John [Wren]."

An Omnicom spokeswoman said nothing has changed in Mr. Crawford's duties. Mr. Crawford declined to comment.

The board of Lincoln Center in June named Mr. Crawford to replace legendary soprano Beverly Sills as its new chairman, effective in August. He will help lead a 10-year redevelopment project requiring $1.2 billion in fundraising..

But Mr. Crawford said publicly the project's goals need refinement, and getting everybody at Lincoln Center on board "is difficult to do when the organization is in flux." That has led to the speculation of whether Mr. Crawford will be able to give equal weight to both Lincoln Center and Omnicom.

But some say he doesn't have to.

"John Wren is well-fit for this," said Bob Huntington, analyst for AdMedia Partners, New York. "I think he already has it under control, and if he needs to continue to be a more visible presence, he will."

Mr. Wren declined to comment.

stock low

Company stock hit a low of $36.50 on June 27 following a Wall Street Journal story that raised questions about Omnicom's accounting of acquisitions and spin-offs. That was the stock's lowest point since 1997 and well off the 52-week high of $97.35 reached in March.

Omnicom has since recovered some of its losses. A 49-page investor presentation released on its Web site July 8 has helped push the stock back to about $50.

Randall J. Weisenburger, Omnicom's exec VP-chief financial officer, is in the midst of a road show to make the presentation to investors. Omnicom executives, said one individual who saw the presentation, are in "the pitch of their life."

contributing: alice z. cuneo

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