The agency Aug. 9 officially announced the departure of the president-chief operating officer, one week after Mr. Wax strenuously denied to Advertising Age that any changes in Mr. Fitzgerald's responsibilities were planned.
In a statement last week, Mr. Wax attributed Mr. Fitzgerald's departure to "differing views on the future management of the agency."
POSSIBLE HEIRS INCLUDE MOSS
Speculation turned immediately to possible successors, although Mr. Wax will reacquire for now the responsibilities he turned over to Mr. Fitzgerald in January. The most likely internal candidates would be Gary Moss, hired a month after Mr. Fitzgerald to be Saatchi's top exec on its critical Procter & Gamble account; and Alan Bishop, chairman-CEO, North America.
Executives close to Saatchi and parent company Cordiant said Cordiant CEO Bob Seelert had hired Mr. Fitzgerald with the intention of having him "shake up" the agency-in particular, improving its focus on profitability.
But he shook too hard. Management ultimately became convinced Mr. Fitzgerald's abrasive style would prevent him from doing an effective job, the executives said.
"To be effective, your people have got to want to work with you," said one executive.
Mr. Fitzgerald's quick rise and fall demonstrate the pitfalls along the path to the chief executive's suite.
Mr. Fitzgerald, 49, left McCann-Erickson Worldwide in January.
At Saatchi's New York headquarters, Mr. Fitzgerald stepped into a tough position immediately. On the one hand, he was identified as the eventual successor to the popular, easygoing Mr. Wax. On the other hand, he was given responsibility for new business, finance and profitability-three areas that have been weaknesses for Saatchi.
By all accounts, Mr. Fitzgerald attacked those weaknesses with determination. Clients were surprised in meetings with Saatchi by the agency's increased emphasis on its bottom line.
"All they talk about these days is profit," said one client manager. Contributing: Pat Sloan, Brad Johnson, Laura Petrecca.