Shop at crossroads: Euro RSCG Tatham suffers exec losses

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Two top executives are leaving Euro RSCG Tatham Partners following an exodus of more than a dozen staffers in recent months, raising questions about the future of the once-highflying Windy City agency.

Patrick Palmer, director-strategy, is leaving the shop to join Publicis Groupe's Chemistri, in a new post as exec VP-chief strategic and planning officer, a spokesman for the Troy Mich. agency confirmed, to lead its brand-strategy and account-planning groups. Mr. Palmer couldn't be reached.

Lisa Butler, VP on Tatham's two largest accounts, the $120 million Walgreen Co. business and its $80 million Darden Restaurants' Red Lobster account, also is leaving. She is expected to join Interpublic Group of Cos.' Draft, Chicago, as senior VP-group account director next month. Draft confirmed the appointment. Ms. Butler, with Tatham since 2000, declined to comment.

The Red Lobster business now is run by Group Account Director Tim Maurey. The departures "won't be an issue for us," said a Darden spokesman.

more to come?

More troubling is the specter of higher-level defections. Chief Creative Officer Jim Schmidt is widely expected to depart when his contract expires in October. He's held the post since March 2000 when Tatham bought out his creative boutique McConnaughy Stein Schmidt Brown in an effort to recast itself as a creative powerhouse. Mr. Schmidt, known to have been courted on and off by Omnicom Group's DDB Chicago, declined to comment. DDB did not return calls for comment.

Even CEO Gary Epstein has been making the recruiting rounds, according to several industry executives, who said he was among the candidates being considered for the Chicago presidency of J. Walter Thompson Co. before Barry Krause was hired in the post. Mr. Epstein did not return calls.

In addition to Walgreen's and Red Lobster, the agency counts Sara Lee, Alberto-Culver and Wilson Sporting Goods among its clients. The agency has not picked up much new business beyond the $3 million Charbroil account and Drexel Heritage furniture last year.

"People don't know what Tatham stands for, so it's hard to get into pitches," said an executive close to the company.

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