NEW SAATCHI AIMS FOR BRIT AIR

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LONDON-Maurice Saatchi's New Saatchi Agency is up to $115 million in billings after wresting the $60 million Dixons consumer electronics retail chain account away from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising last week.

And if New Saatchi wins the $135 million British Airways account along with Australia's Qantas Airways after the final round of pitches this week, those billings could zoom up to $290 million.

British Airways has said it wants to make a quick decision after this week's meetings among contenders New Saatchi, Saatchi, Bartle Bogel Hegarty and J. Walter Thompson Co., who are pitching to British Airways Chairman Sir Colin Marshall, (a friend of Mr. Saatchi), Managing Director Robert Ayling and General Manager of Marketing Derek Dear. Agency executives close to the review said they may hear the outcome this week, but that a decision next week is even more likely.

Last month Michael Batt, British Airways director of marketing who was to run the account review, left to join Fort Lauderdale, Fla., car rental company Alamo Rent-A-Car as VP-sales and marketing.

British Airways is still seeking a replacement, expected to come from outside the company, but agency executives said a new marketing director won't change the review's outcome.

At New Saatchi, the Dixons win will mean adding about 30 new staffers to the 40 people already working at the agency. Many of them will come from Saatchi, including Michael Kay,, who pitched the business for Saatchi. Mr. Kay was in the process of being promoted to president of Saatchi's London office from deputy chairman, but instead will move with the Dixons account when it departs to New Saatchi in August.

In further staffing up, Moray MacLennan, New Saatchi's joint chief executive, said the agency is currently interviewing candidates to be its first finance director.

If New Saatchi captures the British Airways account, the agency has said it plans to open New York, Sydney and Hong Kong offices. If he loses, he'll still have a fast-growing agency with a local client list but no global marketer.

There's also a strong possibility British Airways will split the account, perhaps handing out brands such as First Class, Club and World Traveller to different agencies, according to agency executives who have spoken to the airline.

In one of the many peculiarities of the legal battle between Saatchi and its former executives who have joined New Saatchi, some staffers like Mr. MacLennan are banned from soliciting Saatchi clients but free to work for them if the account moves to the agency.

So Mr. MacLennan, a former worldwide account director on British Airways when he was joint managing director of Saatchi, has been kept out of the pitch but can be touted as available to work on the business if New Saatchi wins.

Bettors have already chosen Maurice, according to Ladbrokes, a U.K. betting agency that took wagers on an ad agency review for the first time with the British Airways pitch. Before the betting closed, $30,000 of a total $67,500 plunked down on the review had been wagered on Mr. Saatchi's fledgling agency.

Charles Siler contributed to this story.

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