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[Detroit] A.G. Lafley, chairman, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble Co., resigned at the close of business April 22 as a director on General Motors Corp.'s board, effective immediately. GM cited anti-trust laws involving its own financial-services arm and that of General Electric Co., on whose board Mr. Lafley also serves.

Wendy's happy about finger-woman's arrest

[Dublin, Ohio] Wendy's executives are "thrilled" after the Las Vegas woman who claimed to find a partial finger in a bowl of chili last month was arrested on April 21 and charged with grand larceny. Anna Ayala, 39, was arrested in her Las Vegas home after investigators became suspicious that she planted the severed digit at a San Jose, Calif., Wendy's. Police searched her home amid media reports about her having sued other large companies. Ms. Ayala dropped her claim against Wendy's and parted with her attorney amid the probe.

McD's, NBA go global with $40M sponsorship deal

[New York] McDonald's Corp. and the National Basketball Association have agreed to a global expansion of their corporate sponsorship, a deal that industry experts say is worth about $40 million. The NBA declined to comment on what the deal was worth. McDonald's will support several current NBA outreach programs on four continents, including China, where the fast-food company will utilize NBA star Yao Ming. "Nothing gives us a presence like being with McDonald's in and around their restaurants and to have their brand endorsed in the events we do," NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

Coke marketing exec Ransom leaves company

[Atlanta] Coca-Cola North America is again shuffling marketing executives amid a restructuring of its brand business units. Randy Ransom, senior VP-Coca-Cola Trademark, is leaving the company "to pursue other interests," according to an internal memo from John Hackett, senior VP in charge of Coca-Cola North America's marketing unit. Coke will combine the Coke unit with the diets brand business team under a single Coca-Cola Trademark unit to be led by Katie Bayne, formerly senior VP- integrated marketing. See QwikFIND aaq50z

Blimpie campaign calls Subway on freshness

[Atlanta] Fast growing sandwich chain Blimpie International is unveiling its new look with a $12 million spot campaign that takes shots at its rivals claims. About Subway: "Eat fresh, huh? ... Did you see a meat slicer in there?" says a life size sandwich character called Blimpie Guy. Created by Lou Beres & Associates, Chicago, the effort launches the chain's new store design, logo and menu, including a line-up of panini-grilled Ciabatta bread sandwiches.

Bell takes `Today' reins after Touchet's exit

[New York] NBC appointed sports producer Jim Bell as the new executive producer of the "Today" show. Mr. Bell had handled Olympic coverage for NBC. He replaces Tom Touchet who exited NBC last week after working on the show for two and a half years. NBC has been struggling to maintain the size of its lead on nearest rival ABC's "Good Morning America." According to Nielsen Media Research figures, provided by NBC, "Today" led the week of April 11, with 5.69 million viewers. "GMA" had 5.42 million for the week.

Coke buys out Danone stake in water business

[Paris] Coca-Cola Co. and Group Danone are ending their North American joint venture to distribute water brands, Group Danone said in its annual shareholder meeting. As a result, Coke will buy out Danone's 49% stake, estimated to cost less than $100 million.

DoubleClick goes up and down on reports of sale

[New York] Ad-serving company DoubleClick's stock went up 18% on April 21 on news that buyout firm Hellman & Friedman was close to a deal to buy the company for as much as $1.2 billion, reports said. But the stock dropped on news that DoubleClick had posted a quarterly loss of $917,000, which the company attributed to the costs of exploring a sale. Is the price too high? "The valuation didn't surprise me," said Troy Mastin, analyst at William Blair & Co.

Canada's ad scandal will lead to election

[Ottawa] Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin appeared on TV April 21 and promised to call an election within 30 days of publication of the final Gomery Report, an ongoing government investigation of the ad scandal rocking Canada. Public hearings are delving into how $83 million of a $208 million sponsorship fund funneled through advertising and public-relations agencies was really spent (AA, April 11). Canada's three opposition parties may ignore Mr. Martin's plea to wait and are likely to take a non-confidence vote on May 3, forcing an election in June.

Buyers say too early for cable, kids upfront

[New York] A few agencies are reportedly discussing with top-tier cable networks Lifetime, Discovery and Turner price breaks in return for a greater share of ad dollars and a few are writing multi-quarter deals, although no agencies Ad Age spoke to would comment on the specific nature of them. Several high-volume broadcast buying executives called any early deal-making premature and one said it would be "insane" to move so early in a market the buyers expect to be soft. Likewise, two other cable networks believe they'll be able to write kids upfront deals early next week. However, agencies canvassed by Ad Age insist they're not close to deals.

FYI ...

General Motors Corp.'s Hummer brand said it's tapping into sports to reach the 60% male target for its smaller, new H3 SUV. Among other things, the brand sponsored the NFL draft last weekend with on-site parties, displays and an online "Fantasy Game" on ... Havas' single largest shareholder, French corporate raider Vincent Bollore last week requested four seats on the advertising holding company's board. The move guarantees a showdown between Mr. Bollore and Havas management at the company's annual shareholder meeting June 9. See QwikFIND: aaq50u ... WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, has restructured its creative department, eliminating the role of executive creative director and aligning the department into nine groups, each headed by a team of group creative directors. As part of the restructuring, 14 creative directors are being promoted.

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