PLOT TWISTS ABOUND IN SAATCHI SOAP OPERA

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The O. J. Simpson TV coverage has hurt the ratings of soap operas because it is a soap opera-and a compelling one at that.

In the ad business we have our very own soap opera starring Maurice Saatchi. It has everything-corporate intrigue, dirty tricks, revenge, nationalism, elitism, even a touch of sibling rivalry. It has plots and subplots. It has protagonists and antagonists (depending on your viewpoint).

As The New Yorker stated: "This is a story of not only two feuding businessmen but of two irreconcilable ways of looking at the world."

The feuding businessmen, of course, are Maurice and Saatchi & Saatchi investor David Herro, who demanded Maurice's ouster from the agency he started.

One of the subplots of this drama is why the Saatchi & Saatchi board went along with Mr. Herro's ultimatum, especially after two key clients said they would be very unhappy should Mr. Saatchi leave. Surely there must have been a way to accommodate both Mr. Saatchi and Mr. Herro beyond offering Maurice a ceremonial post.

Mr. Herro, apparently, acquired an acute dislike of Maurice's extravagant ways after they had lunch together in Maurice's office.

Vanity Fair also has jumped into the fray. The magazine reported that Herro insisted on calling Mr. Saatchi "Mo-reees" and reportedly described him as a "toffee-nosed Brit."

One source told Vanity Fair: "At the end of the lunch Maurice takes out this big box of cigars, lights one up, looks out over the most expensive real estate in London. He says, `What are we going to do about all these expenses?' I mean, knock, knock, knock, is there anybody home? What a way to run a company!"

Maurice can be accused of many things, but being stupid is not one of them. He never makes a move without a very specific motive. So the question that must be asked is: Did he purposely antagonize the major investor in Saatchi & Saatchi to engineer his own exit knowing that key accounts would follow? Or is anybody that smart?

Maurice planted the idea in the Vanity Fair piece that there was a conspiracy to unseat him, but I am not so sure. At another place in the article, author Fiametta Rocco states: "There is a purpose to Maurice Saatchi's incessant stage-managing; his version of events gets publicized, yet he can deny all responsibility. Maurice doesn't like his fingerprints on things."

Is this too convoluted for our soap-opera plot? If Maurice doesn't like his fingerprints around, why did he say on the record that there was a plot to unseat him? It would be more in character for the opposite to be true: He plotted to be unseated.

There has been so much written about Maurice Saatchi that he threatens to become a parody of himself. We now know more about the man than we ever wanted to know, and he is about to surrender all the mystique that he and his brother Charles have so painstakingly erected around themselves. Maurice Saatchi is about to become the newest cliche for the man in the gray flannel suit.

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