OF MARTIN AND MAURICE

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There's no love lost between Britain's two advertising agency superpowers-WPP Group and Saatchi & Saatchi Co. Maybe that's why they're behaving so differently these days.

After a long, difficult struggle to overcome a heavy burden of debt through bank-supported restructuring, WPP Group got through 1993 in decent shape.

CEO Martin Sorrell hunkered down, took his medicine, and kept a steady hand on the wheel. Now the agency conglomerate he put together during the go-go Eighties is again poised for growth. He expects to hire some heavy hitters and acquire interests in other agencies around the world. And he'll continue to work out of London.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, it's a different story. Faced with near bankruptcy because of plunging profits and soaring debt, the brothers Maurice and Charles Saatchi brought in Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Charles Scott to straighten out the mess they had created. Only then could the debt be refinanced and huge writeoffs successfully taken.

Mr. Louis-Dreyfus then departed, leaving Mr. Scott in charge. But with margins remaining low and new business lagging, Maurice Saatchi is itching to shake up his U.S. agencies. He has transferred a small squad of top execs to the States to accomplish this task. He himself is planning to work alongside them in New York.

Some say this is all part of a power struggle between Mr. Scott and Mr. Saatchi. But perhaps it's not that complicated.

The U.S. agency business, clunking and sputtering along, can use some fresh energy and excitement. That's where Maurice Saatchi comes in. And he further distances himself from those frowning bankers, and a smiling Martin Sorrell, back home.

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