Srere splits

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Linda Srere, president of WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, resigned last week, seven years after she joined the agency.

Her departure comes just weeks before a key deadline that could set in motion additional changes in the structure and management of Young & Rubicam, the agency holding company. Oct. 4 marks the first anniversary of the merger. From that date, WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell will be fre e to run the company as he sees fit-while Young & Rubicam Chairman-CEO Michael Dolan and Y&R Advertising Chairman-CEO Ed Vick can exercise options to leave with sizable severance packages.

Mr. Sorrell, known for his hands-on management style, has been blocked from unilateral decisions by an agreement that left control of Young & Rubicam in the hands of a four-person transition committee. That agreement, which stipulates WPP will not "combine any of Y&R's existing material businesses with any other business of WPP, transfer any of Y&R's businesses to WPP or any of its subsidiaries or offer any Y&R employees employment with the WPP group" without committee approval, expires Oct. 4.

Some believe more departures among Young & Rubicam's senior ranks are possible. "It's time. Things need to be shaken up a bit," said one insider.

Reports of Mr. Sorrell's dissatisfaction with Young & Rubicam's performance have swirled around the agency for months as major clients, including Ericsson, Tricon Global Restaurants' KFC, Informix and American Home Products Corp.'s Advil, have left the agency. Mr. Sorrell referred calls last week to Mr. Dolan, who could not be reached for comment.

According to a financial document filed in June 2000 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Messrs. Dolan and Vick will have 30 days after the first anniversary of the change in control to exercise a "voluntary termination of employment."

Ms. Srere, who joined Y&R in 1994 as director-business development, is well regarded by clients and colleagues. But she is said to have been unhappy with the financial pressures that came with the agency's acquisition. She said last week that it was time "to do something different."

"I take risks," said Ms. Srere, 46, who described herself as "an entrepreneur at heart." She said she plans to stay "in the business or something related to it, clients, creative work-who knows?"

Ms. Srere said her decision was a year in the making; in fact, she took the summer off to decide her future. Mr. Vick said in a statement, "I will personally miss her like crazy." He noted that when he hired Ms. Srere in 1994, "The company was in a tough situation. We were having difficulty winning new-business pitches." He said one of Ms. Srere's greatest strengths was her ability to forge relationships with clients.

Ms. Srere said she intends to remain at Y&R for another month to help with the transition as other executives take over her key clients, including Kraft Foods, Sony Corp, Mattel USA and MetLife. Y&R has no plans to name a successor, according to a spokeswoman.

Contributing: Richard Linnett, Kate MacArthur and Mercedes M. Cardona

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