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[Bentonville, Ark.] Wal-Mart Stores has begun searching internally and externally for a new chief marketing officer to replace Bob Connolly, who will retire at the end of calendar 2005, reported exclusively. The move, rumored for months around the giant retailer's Arkansas headquarters, stemmed from Mr. Connolly's desire to spend more time with his family and traveling, a spokeswoman said. Mr. Connolly's retirement was announced to employees in an e-mail March 4. See QwikFIND aaq38c

Mitsubishi eyes others after BBDO deal hits snag

[Cypress, Calif.] Mitsubishi Motors North America has expanded negotiations for its creative account to include Interpublic Group of Cos.' TM, Dallas, after a week of talks with Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, hit a snag over compensation, according to executives familiar with the situation. A Mitsubishi spokeswoman said the company "wants to take more time to review our options." The automaker had planned to announce a decision on March 1. Both TM and BBDO referred calls to the client.

Bess hits WPP, Y&R with $1.1 million suit

[New York] Ron Bess, who held senior posts at WPP Group's Y&R, New York, from 2000 to 2003, is suing the agency and holding company for $1.1 million he claims is owed under a stock compensation plan, according to a federal court filing. Mr. Bess was terminated "without cause," according to the claim, which also states that defendants' argument that Mr. Bess forfeited payments by violating a non-compete agreement is "factually baseless and legally incorrect." Mr. Bess last spring became regional director-North America for Havas' Euro RSCG Worldwide.

Y&R brings in WPP crisis firm for PR help

[New York] Troubled Y&R has called in sibling WPP agency and well-known crisis communications shop, Robinson Lerer Montgomery, to help out with its public relations issues. Executives familiar with the matter said RLM, who aided Ogilvy & Mather during the recent criminal trial of two former executives, is offering advice to Ann Fudge on the agency's myriad issues, as well as conducting more mundane tasks such as media training and promoting the agency to some key journalists. A Y&R spokesman denied RLM is working in a crisis capacity. Y&R, which has suffered a string of business losses, lost chief spokeswoman Elizabeth Reilly, who announced her resignation last week.

NHL teams unlikely to accept $3.5B offer

[Detroit] Owners of the 30 National Hockey League franchises do not appear interested in the $3.5 billion offer by Boston-based companies Bain Capital Partners and Game Plan LLC to buy the teams and the league. Under the unusual offer, each franchise would be worth an average of $117 million. But bigger market teams are worth far more. The Detroit Red Wings are valued by Forbes to be worth $266 million. The NHL canceled its season last month after failing to come to a labor agreement with its player's union.

Cadbury outpaced Coke, PepsiCo in `04

[Plano, Texas] Cadbury Schweppes outpaced Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo in U.S. volume gains in 2004, according to fresh data from Beverage Digest/Maxwell. The No. 3 soft drink marketer's volume grew 2.3%, compared to leader Coke's 1% decline and Pepsi's .4% gain. Energy drink producer Red Bull climbed to No. 7, while rival Rockstar joined the top 10 companies. Cadbury's 7UP fell off the top 10 brand list while sibling Diet Dr Pepper rejoined the list with a 16.2% volume jump. Diet Pepsi brand leapfrogged Sprite and Dr Pepper to become the No. 5 brand.

Coke's 2004 spending neared $6 billion mark

[Atlanta] Coca-Cola Co. spent nearly $6 billion in advertising in 2004, according to the marketer's March 4 annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The soft drink giant's corporate advertising spending jumped 18.8% to $2.17 billion in 2004, with about $194 million from advertising and production costs for print, radio and TV. The marketer also spent $3.6 billion in 2004 in funds to support bottler marketing, primarily for sales promotion programs and volume-based incentives.

BK, McD's see February growth

[Oak Brook, Ill.] Burger King Corp. on March 4 said its February same-store sales grew 7.3% over February 2004, making it the 13th straight month of gains and the first time (since at least the mid-90s) that the chain has positively cycled over its prior period's results. Meanwhile, McDonald's Corp. on March 8 is expected to announce higher-than expected domestic same store sales for February, according to "channel checks" made by Citigroup Smith Barney. Analyst Mark Kalinowski projected a 5.2% gain for the month over the 20.1% gain in February 2004.

Scion to launch own record label

[Torrance, Calif.] Toyota Motor Sales USA's Scion will launch its own record label March 19 at the South By Southwest music conference in Austin. Scion A/V is funding production and promotion. Dakah, a 60-member hip-hop orchestra from California, will be the first CD. Fat Beats Records will handle retail.

FYI ...

Fallon Worldwide last week closed the Los Angeles creative outpost it opened in 2000. ... SABMilller's Miller Brewing Co. tapped Interpublic's Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., to handle its Brutal Fruit beverage line, the company said. Brutal Fruit, a malt beverage with fruit juice, hits test markets this month. ... Kraft Foods later this month will launch a new line of better-for-you kids snacks called KidSense. ... Bel Cheese U.S.A., maker of Laughing Cow brand, has awarded its roughly $5 million account to Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. ... Former Blue Flame Marketing & Advertising president Jameel Spencer has taken the post of chief brand strategist for apparel and lifestyle company Roc Brands. Mr. Spencer, 36, is the latest in a string of marketing chiefs to spearhead efforts for Damon Dash and his raft of more than 14 brands.

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