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Interpublic Group of Cos. executives gave back about 1.2 million stock options awarded to them as part of the compensation packages, in recognition of the company's poor stock performance, Chairman-CEO David Bell said. Speaking at Interpublic's annual shareholders' meeting, Mr. Bell noted several executives contributed options to the give-back, including himself, Chairman Emeritus Philip H. Geier, FCB Worldwide CEO Brendan Ryan and former Chairman-CEO John J. Dooner, who gave back 500,000 options. Mr. Bell said the give-backs will be put to use as incentives to retain talent. Mr. Bell defended Interpublic's overall executive compensation as in line with the rest of the industry, but noted Interpublic paid no bonuses to its top brass in 2002 and had paid reduced bonuses in 2001. Additionally, he noted he and Mr. Dooner are placing their stock options in escrow until Interpublic's stock price reaches $20 per share. The stock closed at $12.32 May 21, the day of the meeting. QwikFIND aao69d

Hearst's `Gardener' cuts back frequency

Hearst Magazines slashed the frequency of its Country Living offshoot, Country Living Gardener, to four times a year from six. The move affected just under 10 staffers, including Editor in Chief Diana Gold Murphy. A company spokesman said the title was being placed "under the umbrella" of its 25-year-old parent title. Country Living Gardener, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, will move to its new frequency with a fall issue, and the just-completed July-August issue will be its last every-other-monthly appearance.

Hearst has aggressively reshaped its portfolio in the last year. It purchased shelter title Veranda and leading teen book Seventeen for about $220 million. Last month, it shuttered decorative title Victoria and launched women's title Lifetime. Set to roll out later this year is an offshoot of Town & Country, Town & Country Travel.

Country Living Gardener's ad pages are not audited. Its rate base was dropped to 350,000 from 400,000 with its July-August 2002 issue, and for the last half of 2002 its circulation fell 19.9% to 362,385, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations. QwikFIND aao69o

Doner direct unit shut in Baltimore

Independent advertising agency Doner shuttered its direct-marketing operation in Baltimore to consolidate the unit into its Southfield, Mich., headquarters. The move, to be finalized Aug. 31, is meant to allow the agency to provide better integrated services, said Alan Kalter, Doner's chairman-CEO. He expects roughly 20% of the office's 75 staffers to transfer to other offices as accounts and personal situations allow, while the rest likely will be laid off. The move ends years of speculation that Doner would leave the Baltimore market. Originally opened in 1955 to service the regional Altes Brewery account, the Baltimore office grew to become the largest ad agency in the city and Doner's co-headquarters. Over time it also became the center of the agency's direct-marketing operation. In 1998, Doner stripped the office of co-headquarters status, prompting rumors of a shutdown. By 2000, most of management had moved back to Southfield. QwikFIND aao69j

Publicis creates P&G media unit

Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group created a dedicated planning group called SMG/P&G to manage package-goods giant Procter & Gamble Co.'s U.S. media-planning assignments. P&G's media shops include Mediavest USA, Starcom USA and Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, all Publicis units. Mediavest previously handled TV planning and buying, with Starcom handling print planning and buying. Saatchi & Saatchi handled broader media planning for the many P&G brands it handles, including Pampers, Tide, Iams and Olay. The planning group will have offices in New York and Chicago and will be organized around specific brand categories, according to Starcom MediaVest. The realignment by Publicis is "consistent with our plans to move aggressively beyond traditional media thinking and embrace a holistic consumer-communications platform," said Greg Ross, director of media for P&G North America. QwikFIND aao69r

Bronfman leads bid for Universal units

Vivendi Universal Vice Chairman Edgar M. Bronfman Jr. plans to lead a bid for Vivendi's U.S. assets, backed by cable company Cablevision Systems Corp. The U.S. assets include Vivendi Universal Entertainment-parent of USA Networks, Universal theme parks and Universal Studios-and the Universal Music Group. Other bidders include former 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis and cable company Liberty Media Corp. Vivendi Chairman-CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou has set a goal of $8 billion in asset sales in 2003, to reduce the company's crushing debt load and refocus its operations on telecommunications services. At Vivendi's shareholder meeting April 29, Mr. Fourtou said the sale of all or part of the U.S. assets is a top priority in 2003.

FYI . . .

Sprint, Hilton, McAffee Security, and online exchange site have become the first marketers to offer the new eBay Anything Points program which allows shoppers to use frequent-flier and other loyalty-program points to make eBay purchases. ... Russ Klein, 7 Eleven's chief marketing officer, was named chief marketing officer for Burger King, replacing Chris Clouser, who retired May 1. ... Dr Pepper/Seven Up moved its Sunkist orange soda account to Brand Buzz, a unit of WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, from Interpublic's Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, Chicago. The agency still handles Hawaiian Punch for the marketer. Spending on Sunkist soda in 2002 was $5.2 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. QwikFIND aao69l.

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