And they're swiping the talent, too

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Asked at an analyst conference in December who P&G's biggest competitors for talent were these days, the first group off the lips of Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley was "private equity."

"It's almost always part of the conversation now [with candidates]," said Barbara Pickens, president of recruiting firm Pickens & Co., which specializes in marketing and marketing-oriented management talent. "Five years ago, it was almost never part of the conversation."

Still, burned by the dot-com experience and the recriminations participants in the dot-com gold rush faced when trying to return to conventional marketers, many are wary of participating in what could be a private-equity bubble, said David Wiser of the recruiting firm Wiser Partners.

Former Gillette Co. executive Jim Kilts could become the poster child of the private-equity boom. Having netted nearly $300 million in personal gains from fixing and flipping two public companies in less than six years-Nabisco Foods and Gillette-he's now apparently turned his sights to smaller fries with the potential for equally big cumulative paydays.

People familiar with the matter say the Centerview Partners fund Mr. Kilts joined this summer is on the way to raising around $1 billion, which, under its charter, could be divided into about 10 deals that could be leveraged to be about $500 million each. Mr. Kilts didn't return calls for comment.

While some believe Mr. Kilts could still be lured to head a major, iconic brand marketer like Coca-Cola Co., he recently rebuffed an overture to become chairman-CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, said a person familiar with the matter. For now, his sights appear set on reenacting on a small scale what he's already done on a large scale.
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