WPP TALKS WITH SCANZONI ABOUT POST AT MINDSHARE: MEDIAVEST EXEC, FREE AT YEAREND, LOOKING TO BUILD A NEW COMPANY

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WPP Group has approached agency media veteran Rino Scanzoni to be head TV buyer for MindShare in the U.S.

Hiring the 46-year-old executive would be a solid step forward for the holding company's plan to introduce the media buying operation in the U.S. by early next year.

MindShare, already up and running in many overseas markets, combines the buying and planning units of WPP's J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell has been searching for both a worldwide and U.S. CEO in recent months.

Mr. Scanzoni is currently exec VP-national broadcast at MacManus Group's MediaVest, New York. He confirmed last week he will step down from that post at yearend (AA, May 10).

Executives close to the situation caution that no deal is imminent between Mr. Scanzoni and WPP, and a deal may or may not be consummated. Officially, a MindShare executive said the company is not currently in discussions with Mr. Scanzoni.

'A NATIONAL TREASURE'

Mr. Scanzoni has a solid reputation among buyers and sellers. "Rino is a national treasure," said one major network TV executive. "He's clearly one of the brightest guys around."

Previously, Mr. Scanzoni was approached by Carat USA. Carat CEO David Verklin earlier this year acknowledged he had spoken to Mr. Scanzoni, but said there was no agreement for him to join Carat.

Mr. Scanzoni said of his 21 years at MediaVest and its predecessor companies, "What I've realized is that the fun was building the company, and that's something I'd like to do again."

He declined comment on talks with WPP.

Mr. Sorrell has been trying to establish MindShare in the U.S. for several years, but has been thwarted by resistance from JWT and O&M. In the U.S., MindShare would open with billings of about $4.55 billion.

CONFLICTS AND EGOS

"It's not easy for the holding companies to make these things work in the U.S.," said one rival agency media executive. "Omnicom is still trying to establish [Optimum Media Direction] here, and [Interpublic Group of Cos.] has Western Initiative, which is really Western and Ammirati, but you don't see McCann, Lowe or Campbell-Ewald part of that group. It's a question of client conflicts and

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