Interpublic Eighty-Sixes the Notorious Saatchi 17

Holding Company Severs Ties With Mike Burns' Breakaway Agency

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- OneSeven has been deep-sixed. Interpublic Group of Cos. is no longer backing the notorious Saatchi 17, the group of ex- Saatchi & Saatchi
Mike Burns, chairman of OneSeven and former Saatchi vice-chairman, is striking out on his own.
Mike Burns, chairman of OneSeven and former Saatchi vice-chairman, is striking out on his own.
account and creative employees who left the Publicis Groupe agency in February 2005, and one month later joined the holding company.

"We have finalized decisions regarding separation from OneSeven," said an Interpublic spokesman. "They are a talented group of professionals and we hope some will find opportunities within the group; others have chosen to go forward independently."

Burns relishes independence
OneSeven chairman Mike Burns, the former Saatchi vice-chairman and worldwide account director on General Mills who set in motion one of 2005's biggest stories of the year when he left the agency and was followed by 17 of his former colleagues, is striking out on his own. "We are now looking forward to building our business with an independent's focus and an entrepreneur's energy," he said. The agency's clients include ConAgra's Hebrew National; Gorton's seafood; McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek; Dun & Bradstreet; and Unicef.

It's unclear which OneSeven employees will work with Mr. Burns and which will stay with Interpublic. OneSeven CEO Anne Adriance did not return a call for comment at press time.

Profitability an issue?
The agency was not profitable, a knowledgeable executive said, which led to Interpublic's decision. Mr. Burns would not comment directly on financial matters, but said, "Our business scale did not make sense for a multinational, multibillion-dollar holding company, but our focus makes sense for our client partners."

When Mr. Burns and his colleagues left Saatchi, industry-watchers speculated that General Mills, a longtime Saatchi client, would move with the group. Several Interpublic owned agencies, including McCann Worldwide outside the U.S., handle General Mills brands. But General Mills never left Saatchi.

Saatchi took legal action against Mr. Burns in March 2005, suing him on numerous charges, including violating his fiduciary duty and duty of loyalty; Mr. Burns countersued in May 2005 and also asked the court to dismiss the charges. The legal wrangling finally ended in July 2006, with a settlement.
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