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When McCann-Erickson Worldwide Chairman-CEO Robert L. James passes his mantle to John J. Dooner Jr. this year, Mr. Dooner, 45, will be one of the youngest ceos of a mega-agency at a crucial time for large shops.

Mr. James, 57, who has presided as agency head since 1985, plans to relinquish the ceo post to his understudy on July 1. Mr. Dooner is also expected to be named chairman when Mr. James, who will remain on the board of Interpublic Group of Cos., retires from McCann at the end of the year. McCann's worldwide billings total more than $6.4 billion.

"Things are getting inexorably more difficult," Mr. James said of the agency business. "Fewer people have to do more work."

The management shift reflects an industry change toward less layered and more hands-on top management. Mr. James' retirement plans aren't a surprise to executives at McCann (AA, Jan. 10), where in recent months he has increasingly distanced himself from day-to-day operations.

During that time, the aggressive but good-natured Mr. Dooner, now president-chief operating officer worldwide, has assembled his own worldwide management team, including the recruitment of J. Walter Thompson veterans Peter Kim, vice chairman-chief strategy officer of McCann, and Jim Heekin, president of McCann North America.

Also, several executives were redeployed internationally. Most notably, David Warden was moved to London as chairman of McCann's group of agencies and John Fitzgerald, vice chairman-chief operating officer of McCann North America, is slated to move to Japan this year.

"There will be some more changes internationally," Mr. Dooner said. "People in Europe and Asia will be taking on expanded roles."

Agency insiders said last week there are also some creative additions in the offing, including Wells Rich Greene BDDP Exec VP-Group Creative Director Jonathan Cranin, who's expected to join McCann's New York office as a deputy creative director in the coming weeks. At least one other appointment is also expected as McCann veteran creative Ira Madris nears retirement.

Part of orchestrating what one executive called a necessary "creative and strategic renaissance" for McCann could include the acquisition of a smaller, more creative shop like Ammirati & Puris, with which McCann and parent Interpublic have held discussions.

McCann has been scrambling to shore up its troubled relationship with Coca-Cola Co. as the marketer continues to award creative assignments to a growing number of smaller agencies. Executives close to Interpublic have said the holding company would like to diversify its mega-agency roster with the acquisition of a creative boutique in response to Coca-Cola's shifts and those of other large marketers.

As part of the attempt to appear more adroit creatively, Mr. Dooner-much closer to Coca-Cola than Mr. James-has presided over McCann's restructuring into "creative collaboratives," or fluid worldwide pools of talent that contribute to client business.

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