RINEY AT TURNING POINT; AS CLIENTS MOVE ABROAD, AGENCY FACES MIDSIZE CRISIS

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If Hal Riney is not thinking of selling his agency, maybe he should be.

Hal Riney & Partners, with $475 million in billings and offices in San Francisco and Chicago, has reached a midsize agency crossroads. Several prime clients, including General Motors Corp.'s Saturn Corp. and Kinko's Corp., are moving toward international expansion.

Client Alamo Rent-A-Car has already assigned a portion of its business in Europe to the M&C Saatchi Agency.

"Either we hand these off to other agencies or do something," said one agency executive.

Saturn, preparing to enter Japan, is conducting a review through consultant Morgan Anderson, New York. Riney has been considering several options, including using Japanese free-lance resources, pursuing an affiliation with a Japanese agency or developing a formal agreement similar to one between Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and McCann-Erickson Worldwide for Nike in Japan.

"They are on top of that Saturn stuff on all aspects, including the international stuff," said Scott Marshall, Riney's new president (AA, Aug. 28).

In making the appointment, Chairman-CEO Mr. Riney bypassed his own in-house management team of David Verklin, general manager, San Francisco; John Yost, exec VP-corporate development; and Barry Krause, exec VP-managing director, Chicago.

At the same time, Joe O'Neill departed as exec VP-national creative director after receiving a take-it-or-leave it contract offer. Mr. O'Neill said that when he moved to the national post from Riney's New York office, Mr. Riney had intended to spend less time on the job.

However, Mr. Riney has recently decided to become more involved in the business. (In September 1994, Angotti, Thomas, Hedge acquired majority interest in Riney's New York office, removing it from the Riney fold.)

Mr. O'Neill brought aboard several top creative talents, including Senior VP-Creative Directors Dave O'Hare and Steve Stone, from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, and Senior Copywriter Mimi Cook from San Francisco's Foote, Cone & Belding office.

At the same time, Mr. Riney has settled a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court by for mer Executive Creative Director Peter Murphy, who charged he was fraudulently induced into quitting his job and giving up his right to more than $1 million that would be realized in an agency sale.

Mr. Riney in February 1994 came close to selling the shop to N.W. Ayer & Partners, but balked at the last minute. Previous suitors included Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., and Gold Greenlees Trott, London.

Like Mr. Riney, Mr. Marshall denied that he has been brought in to prepare the agency for sale.

The agency also denied recent reports that it was in negotiations with McCann and Interpublic Group of Cos.

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