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In a coup, Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi hired Kurt Ritter from General Motors Corp. as CEO of its Torrance, Calif., office to manage the team for its Toyota Motor Sales USA account. Mr. Ritter will play a major role in the agency's relationship with the automaker, since North America is the world's largest car market and Toyota represents 25% of Saatchi's global billings. Mr. Ritter, who spent nearly all his 32 years with GM at Chevrolet, was said to have been unhappy in his new position since early March as general manager of GM's Buick-Pontiac-GMC, executives familiar with the matter said. Mr. Ritter couldn't be reached for comment. He will manage the agency's key players on Toyota. That includes Rich Anderman, who joins as managing director-chief operating officer, from Omnicom Group's Merkley Newman Harty, New York, where he oversaw Mercedes-Benz USA's regional dealer ad accounts. Roger Adams, general manager of its GM's Customer Network, will handle Mr. Ritter's former job until a successor is named. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao63r

Chevy Chase trips with AFLAC duck

Spots break May 7 for American Family Life Insurance Co. and feature comical klutz Chevy Chase and, of course, the noisy AFLAC duck. "Everyone from baseball legends to celebrities wants to share the stage with our famous duck. Even Ben Affleck can't help talking about his almost-namesake. In this newest spot with Chevy, we have the added benefit of the comedian being famous for his classic pratfalls. If anybody needs this insurance, Chevy does," said Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO and chief creative officer of Kaplan Thaler Group, the Publicis Groupe agency that created the commercials. See the spot at AdAge.com QwikFIND aao62x

Primedia: `No imperative' to sell

Primedia views "selective divestitures" as one way to reduce debt but has no plans for more major asset sales and "no imperative" to unload assets following the sale of Seventeen to Hearst Corp., interim Chairman Dean Nelson told analysts. Primedia reported flat first-quarter revenue and a sharply lower loss. Revenue was $375.8 million vs. $388.9 million a year earlier. Its net loss was $20.2 million; year-ago loss was $506.5 million, including a $388.5 million charge for accounting changes. Consumer media revenue increased 1.7%; business-to-business dropped 9.1%. The specialty-media company said it hired executive-search firm Spencer Stuart to search for a chairman-CEO to replace Tom Rogers, who left last month. Mr. Nelson said Charles McGurdy, president and interim CEO, is "a strong candidate." AdAge.com QwikFIND aao64s

Vivendi plans sale of U.S. businesses

Vivendi Universal SA confirmed it plans to sell its U.S. movie, TV, theme-park and video-game businesses by year end and focus on telecommunications. At a shareholder meeting last week, Jean-Rene Fourtou, Vivendi's chairman-chief executive, said the company cannot effectively run its entertainment business from Paris. He didn't, however, discuss the fate of Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company. Vivendi will also hold on to Canal Plus Group, the unprofitable French pay-TV unit. Los Angeles-based billionaire Marvin Davis offered $15 billion for all Vivendi's U.S. entertainment assets last year, but got little response from the company.

AOL needs new head of ad sales

Another key executive departed AOL Time Warner's America Online last week. Robert Sherman, president, AOL Interactive Marketing, the company's ad-sales unit, left his post after a little more than a year on the job. Two likely internal candidates to replace him: Lon Otremba, exec VP-strategic planning and operations and Mr. Sherman's right-hand man; and Lisa Brown, who was tapped by AOL CEO Jon Miller late last year as exec VP-interactive marketing. Mr. Sherman, a former Time Warner Cable ad-sales executive, was lured out of retirement last year by former chief operating officer Bob Pittman to take on the job of fixing AOL's ad-sales unit; he is credited with reorganizing AOL's troubled Interactive Marketing division and repairing strained relationships with marketers. AOL faces continuing investigations into its ad-sales activities by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao63v

FYI...

Craig Moon was named president-publisher of Gannett Co.'s USA Today, replacing Tom Curley who will become president-CEO of the Associated Press on June 1. Mr. Moon, who was exec VP of Gannett's Newspaper Division, will report to Douglas H. McCorkindale, Gannett's chairman, president and CEO. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao64n ... An amended 10-K annual report filed by Grey Global Group showed it paid Chairman-CEO Edward Meyer about $4.8 million in salary, bonus, incentive pay and other compensation last year, up 32.5% from 2001. Starting this year, Mr. Meyer's base salary-$3.3 million in 2002-was increased 7.6% to a minimum $3.55 million. Mr. Meyer, 76, has a contract with Grey through December 2004. ... Gilbert Davila joins Walt Disney Co. on May 19 as VP-multicultural marketing, a new corporate post. He left Sears, Roebuck & Co., where he was VP-multicultural management, last month. (AA, April 21)

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