Gotlieb's exit leaves MediaVest scrambling

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Irwin Gotlieb's surprise appointment as chairman-CEO of MindShare sent his former employer, MacManus Group, scrambling to quell client concerns as rumors of an impending sale revived.

Roy Bostock, chairman-CEO of MediaVest parent MacManus, quickly brought back from retirement Mike Moore, a 35-year veteran of its D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles agency, to succeed Mr. Gotlieb. Mr. Moore, 61, now chairman-CEO of MediaVest, was for many years D'Arcy's worldwide media director.

MOVE TO REASSURE CLIENTS

The move was seen as a means of reassuring MediaVest clients.

"Mike is highly respected and liked by clients," said a media executive at a rival shop. "In the short term, that will go a long way toward stabilizing things."

"You can bet the vultures will be circling all of MediaVest's clients," said another top manager at a competing media shop.

Mr. Gotlieb's departure comes not long after Rino Scanzoni, MediaVest's top national TV buyer, announced he was leaving later this year, sparking speculation he might eventually rejoin Mr. Gotlieb at MindShare.

Mr. Bostock, in a previously scheduled visit, went to the Cincinnati headquarters of Procter & Gamble Co., which uses MediaVest as agency of record on its $1 billion TV buying account. He took the opportunity to allay concerns P&G executives might have about Mr. Gotlieb becoming CEO of a media shop used in various countries by P&G's No. 1 rival, Unilever.

SALE SPECULATION

One unknown is how long Mr. Moore will stay in his new post, considering speculation among rival agencies that MacManus is for sale. One scenario, in fact, has Interpublic Group of Cos. interested in buying it.

"I'd imagine one possibility is that Mike tries to revive the deal with Burnett," said a network TV executive.

Last year, MacManus and Leo Burnett Co. discussed merging MediaVest with Burnett's Starcom Worldwide media division.

One reason those talks fell apart was the issue of control. With Mr. Gotlieb and Mr. Scanzoni gone, those negotiations could be revived. However, some observers believed that media-buying merger was a prelude to a bigger deal between Burnett and MacManus. If there were barriers then at the top levels, they might still remain.

At MindShare, Mr. Gotlieb's mission to combine the U.S. media operations of J. Walter Thompson USA and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide will not be an easy task. Not only does he have to meld the disparate cultures of JWT and O&M, Mr. Gotlieb himself has to adjust to the culture of parent WPP Group.

UPPING CLOUT, BRAINPOWER

Martin Sorrell, WPP's chief executive, said the move is not only about gaining clout, but amassing more brainpower.

"The ultimate goal is building a more focused business," Mr. Sorrell said.

However, combining media entities of different agencies in the U.S. has been difficult.

Zenith Media was in turmoil during its first few years as it combined the media departments of Bates USA and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. Omnicom Group is gingerly trying to figure out how to combine its media clout domestically, and Interpublic has had a rocky start with its Western Initiative Media Worldwide.

Contributing: Beth Snyder.

Copyright September 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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