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The Association of National Advertisers is nearing selection of a permanent replacement for retired President DeWitt Helm Jr., with a decision expected as early as this week.

Harry Davis, ANA president-ceo, last week said the trade group's search committee had winnowed the field to two names-Mr. Davis declined to identify them-and said they may be put before the ANA board, which meets this week in Washington.

Mr. Davis, ANA chairman in 1993, was named president-ceo upon Mr. Helm's departure and heads the presidential search committee.

Choosing a successor would bring to a close an industrywide search for a top executive that began last fall following the announcement of Mr. Helm's retirement after 10 years in office.

Mr. Davis denied the search, which Mr. Helm said he expected to be completed by the end of last year, was behind schedule.

"I think that was more DeWitt Helm's interpretation than ours," said Mr. Davis, former director of communications-external affairs at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. "I think this was the time schedule we had in mind for finding someone.

"We could have had someone within 48 hours if we'd wanted. There are a lot of good people out there, what with all the changes going on at different corporations."

Mr. Davis indicated the two surviving candidates are still working at corporate positions and dismissed rumors the trade group would turn to a former U.S. senator or representative.

"There was talk of that elsewhere ... but not for this association," Mr. Davis said.

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