SORRELL FAILS IN BID TO RETAIN TOP EXEC

Dennis Ryan Rejects Offer, Leaps to Omnicom and Quaker Oats

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Rejecting a last-minute offer from WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, J. Walter Thompson executive creative director Dennis Ryan announced his depature today. He will join Omnicom Group's yet-to-be-named agency as chief creative officer, Mr. Ryan told AdAge.com.

"I'm thrilled to be aboard," Mr. Ryan, 38, said in a conference call, joined by Brian Williams, CEO of the agency using the working name NewCo. "It was an agonizing process."

Internal lobbying
On Nov. 28, after Mr. Ryan informed Thompson's Chicago president, Brian Heffernan, of his plans to leave, Mr. Heffernan called on staff to mount an internal lobbying effort to get Mr. Ryan to stay.

Mr. Ryan was then dispatched to New York for an 11th-hour pow-wow with Mr.

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Sorrell and Bob Jeffrey, Thompson's president of North America and New York. But Mr. Ryan rejected their entreaties.

From his flight back to Chicago, Mr. Ryan called and informed Mr. Jeffrey of his decision to leave, a Thompson spokesman said.

Staff announcement
Mr. Heffernan broke the news to staffers late this afternoon.

Peter Schweitzer, Thompson's president-CEO, will fly to New York on Nov. 30 to help identify a successor to replace Mr. Ryan, the spokesman said, noting the candidate likely will be chosen from within the agency network.

$350 million PepsiCo account
With his creative chief in place, Mr. Williams said he soon hoped to have more details about the shop being launched with the $350 million PepsiCo-owned Quaker Oats Co. account.

"I've resisted having a name assigned because I wanted our creative partner to have input on [the name]," Mr. Williams said. "If Dennis is any good, we'll have a name soon." The first order of business, he added, was to agree on an agency mission.

"Where we were both coming from was almost identical," Mr. Williams said.

"But I'm a better writer," added an ebullient Mr. Ryan, who joked that some of his prematurely gray hair fell out during the stressful ordeal.

Although he wouldn't confirm a number, Mr. Williams said the agency headcount has grown since it was last reported 52 staffers from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, were shifting to NewCo. It is unclear whether any Thompson staff will follow Mr. Ryan to the agency.

Mr. Ryan was the second executive offered the creative post at NewCo. FCB's No. 2 worldwide creative, Jonathan Harries, had accepted but later reneged on an offer for the job after he was promoted to FCB's worldwide chief creative post and chairmanship of the Chicago office.

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