McCann divides i-shop

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McCann-Erickson World- Group's troubled i-shop, Zentropy Partners was divided last week and part of the spoils went to create the core of a new online and offline planning and buying unit: Universal McCann Interactive.

On May 18, Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann combined Zentropy Partners units with its customer relationship management division, MRM Worldwide, to create a single entity, MRM Partners Worldwide. MRM Worldwide and Zentropy currently share such clients as General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal and Nestle. (See Adage.com.)

The new Universal McCann unit will be staffed by Zentropy and Universal McCann's online media buying and planning personnel. Universal McCann Interactive will be led by David Cohen, interactive media director, a former Zentropy executive, and Karen Lichtig, director of interactive business development, who joined Universal McCann last October. Ms. Lichtig was previously the interactive media director at WPP Group's Ford Motor Media, a unit of J. Walter Thompson, Detroit.

"We handpicked people from the media group at Zentropy to become Universal McCann Interactive," Ms. Lichtig said. The new unit will specialize in online/offline media planning and buying.

The new department will be part of the Universal McCann's Cross Media Council, a unit dedicated to working on multiplatform deals with consolidated media companies..

"That was one of the reasons behind starting the interactive unit," Ms. Lichtig said. "Having the council and now the interactive unit in-house is one of the steps we have taken to address the direction the media world is moving, and be able to assess the kinds of programs media companies bring to the table."

Post Marchfirst bankruptcy

Interpublic's divvying up of Zentropy comes on the heels of a huge $160 million first quarter write-off of its i-shop investments, including MarchFirst, which filed for bankruptcy last month.

Zentropy became the interactive arm of Interpublic in December 1999, when the advertising holding company acquired a majority stake in the Los Angeles-based Web shop. Interpublic then bundled other i-shop holdings into the company and called the new outfit Zentropy Partners, which was based in Cambridge, Mass., home of Interpublic's Hill Holliday Interactive and Thunder House. Both were rolled up into Zentropy, along with McCann-Erickson/A&L's interactive unit, San Francisco; Shandwick Interactive, New York; Digital Cafe, Minneapolis; and Paris-based MDEO.

Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide's APL Digital and Lowe Interactive weren't included in the roll-up.

Zentropy Partners, which claimed revenue of $50 million at launch in 1999, hired John Connors III as CEO, who joined from Hill Holliday Interactive, where he was senior VP-managing director; he is the son of Jack Connors, CEO of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.

Interpublic was expected to take the company public, but in October 2000 Zentropy was folded into the McCann-Erickson WorldGroup. The company experienced layoffs and its management was reshuffled. Mr. Connors was reassigned to Interpublic's Internet Ventures Group and Michael Tey, Zentropy's chief engagement officer, was promoted to CEO. Mr. Tey becomes president of the new Zentropy digital and interactive solutions arm of MRM Partners Worldwide, and will also lead a new unit focusing on technology practices, the Enterprise Relationship Strategic Consultancy. In 2000, Zentropy had revenue of $68 million.

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