Gamgort Exits Mars Due to Rift With Global Prez Michaels

Company Reveals Cause of Stunning Departure in Frank Memo to Employees

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The news last week of Bob Gamgort's departure from Mars Inc. came as a shock in marketing circles. Even more stunning is what prompted his exit: a butting of heads between Mr. Gamgort, the global president of its flagship chocolate business, and Mars' global president Paul S. Michaels -- and the company's full disclosure of that to employees.

Bob Gamgort
Bob Gamgort
"Bob's decision is based upon increasing misalignment between the two of us on key business decisions," Mr. Michaels wrote in a memo to Mars staff. "While debate and disagreement can be a healthy part of high-performing teams, Bob decided that this was not the time to be personally misaligned, as we are launching a new global structure, integrating Wrigley into the Mars family and facing a challenging economic environment."

Mr. Gamgort referred calls to Mars corporate communications, which confirmed his decision to leave the company. "We are disappointed to see him go and thank him for all of his contributions over the past 10 years," a company spokeswoman said. Mr. Gamgort's exit takes effect in April, although he is expected to consult part-time through 2009.

Just what the rift was about wasn't disclosed, but the memo is typical of Paul Michaels, who brought an uncharacteristic openness to the famously secretive Mars when he joined in 1993. Mars even allowed its employees to comment on the memo on its intranet, with one employee noting, "Sincere thanks offered to both of you for your honesty. It is refreshing to witness what a high-performing team can achieve through open communication."

History with Kraft, MLB
Mr. Gamgort began his marketing career at Kraft Foods, and later spent time as president of Major League Baseball properties, managing advertising, sponsorship and national events at the organization.

He moved over to Mars in 1998 as VP-marketing for the U.S. snack-foods division, joining Mr. Michaels in his quest to raise the creative bar at a company that until then had been rather safe and lackluster in its approach to advertising. In 2002, Mr. Gamgort was promoted to North American president. In that role, he oversaw Mars' multibillion-dollar snack food, pet care and main meal businesses in the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Gamgort made his mark at Mars by recruiting top talent and exhibiting the willingness to undertake drastic moves when necessary. When sales of Snickers began faltering a few years ago, for example, he unceremoniously axed 20-year veteran and snack-food head Martyn Wilks.

Industry executives also say he's responsible for helping McLean, Va.-based Mars, a closely-held, family-owned business, behave more like a public company.

The company's acquisition of gum giant Wrigley was completed in October and together, Mars and Wrigley boosted measured-media spending last year to $546 million, from $522 million in 2007. The figures, from TNS Media Intelligence, exclude, internet, outdoor, and national spot radio.

Mars' creative brands in the U.S. are largely handled by Omnicom Group agencies. TBWA Worldwide handles Pedigree, Snickers, Skittles and Starburst; BBDO Worldwide does work for M&Ms, Milky Way, and some pet-food brands. It also recently picked up an assignment for a new chocolate product dubbed Fling. Mars also works with Nitro Group, which handles Twix.

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