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Includes Senior Account and Creative Executive

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NEW YORK ( -- Mike Burns, the ex-head of the General Mills account at Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, New York, is in talks with Interpublic Group of Cos. to bring his group of 19 former Saatchi employees to the holding company, according to an executive familiar with the situation.
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The discussions follow Mr. Burns' resignation last week after 25 years at Saatchi, where he was vice chairman and worldwide account director on General Mills.

The group of defectors, initially thought to be 17 Saatchi staffers, is now believed to be 19.

Senior executives
Speculation is swirling that Mr. Burns is fielding phone calls from other holding company executives interested in adding the team -- and potentially the General Mills business they've long served. The employees who left Saatchi on Feb. 14 included senior account and creative executives and planners as well as executive assistants.

Factors under discussion include not only pay, said the executive familiar with the matter, but also the fit between Mr. Burns' team and the potential employer; titles and responsibilities; and resources available to the group.

Mr. Burns has not returned calls for comment.

No change in relationship
A spokesman for General Mills said, however, there is no change in the relationship between agency and marketer. "We can confirm we are very pleased with Saatchi's work on our behalf and look forward to continuing our 80-year relationship," he said. Saatchi has said that New York CEO Mary Baglivo and Executive Creative Director Tony Granger will oversee the account.

Two days after the Feb. 11 announcement of Mr. Burns' departure from the agency, 19 employees who worked for him on various General Mills brands, including Cheerios, Yoplait, and Total, tendered their resignations, raising questions about Mr. Burns' plans.

"Seventeen people, especially at senior levels, don't quit their jobs without some kind of assurances," said one industry observer.

Measured media spending on the General Mills brands handled by Saatchi is more than $200 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

A spokesman for Interpublic declined to comment. Two of its agencies, including Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, and McCann Erickson (outside of the U.S.) are General Mills roster agencies.

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