JWT INSTALLS YOUNGER TEAM TO LEAD SAN FRANCISCO SHOP: MOVE COMES AS AGENCY VIES FOR SPRINT'S $40 MIL CORPORATE ACC'T

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[san francisco] J. Walter Thompson USA here, one of the oldest ad agencies in the West, has realigned its management, putting a younger face on the office.

David Riemer, 39, who has headed the office's cornerstone Sprint Corp. account for almost eight years, has been promoted to president of the J. Walter Thompson/West unit. John Geoghegan, 39, formerly director of client services, becomes general manager of JWT's San Francisco office, reporting to Mr. Riemer.

The team succeeds JWT/West President-General Manager Steve Darland, 52, who had headed the San Francisco office for 10 years.

UNSPECIFIED POSITION

Initially, it appeared Mr. Darland would become a part-time consultant advising on JWT's Sprint business from his home in New Mexico. But JWT now says Mr. Darland will take an unspecified full-time "important new position" reporting to Chris Jones, worldwide CEO.

"We have asked him to step up to a brand new challenge," Mr. Jones said in a statement.

Mr. Darland keeps the corporate title of exec VP and will continue as a member of the JWT Worldwide Executive Group and the board.

Steve Richards, 38, currently account director on Sprint's customer services assignment, will take over as group account director on Sprint, replacing Mr. Riemer.

JWT's San Francisco office has long ridden on the success of its $200 million-plus Sprint business and its positioning of actress Candice Bergen as its "Dime Lady" spokeswoman.

However, JWT is competing head to head with fellow roster agency Grey Advertising, New York, for Sprint's coveted $40 million corporate account. The budget for the first-ever corporate advertising will most likely be allocated from spending for Sprint's core long-distance service. A decision is expected this month.

The JWT office, with about 200 employees and billings estimated at $300 million, also still maintains a piece of the Sun Microsystems business, the JavaSoft division, and has a number of other clients, including Nestle USA, Chevron Corp. and Ford Motor Co. regional dealers.

SEVERAL BIG LOSSES

The agency, however, recently has lost several key pieces of business, including the estimated $70 million Sun Microsystems account and online stock trading company E*Trade, an estimated $10 million account, as well as the California Lottery's $20 million to $30 million account.

In what portends to be an overhaul over the next few months, the San Francisco office recently hired Charlie Wittingham, formerly VP-new business at McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., to take the new post of director of new business.

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