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Phil Guarascio remains czar of General Motors Corp.'s $1.3 billion ad budget, but it remains to be seen whether an offer to run Turner Broadcasting Sales will turn out to be the wedge that gets him apromotion at the automaker.

Speculation around Detroit centered on whether GM Chairman John Smale or President John F. "Jack" Smith personally got involved in persuading Mr. Guarascio to reject the Turner offer, said to be a three-year contract topping off at $1 million in the final year.

After weighing the offer to join Turner, Mr. Guarascio announced March 14 that he would stay with GM, where he is general manager-marketing and advertising for North American Operations.

The decision surprised Turner executives, who thought they had a handshake deal. Mr. Guarascio is said to have even spent time in the New York area looking at real estate.

Mr. Guarascio declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement March 14 saying, "Contrary to published reports in the media, I have no plans to leave my position at General Motors.

"This is perhaps the most exciting period in the history of GM, and I am excited to be a part of that history and fully expect to be a part of its future. It's flattering to be considered for key positions with other highly successful firms; however, my commitment remains with General Motors."

GM's board isn't scheduled to meet again until April 4, the earliest that Mr. Guarascio could get a VP title.

If Mr. Smith became involved, it may be because he wanted to head off another high-profile defection, as was the case a year ago when VP-Worldwide Purchas ing Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua left for Volkswagen.

"Given Phil's status in the company, Jack could have gotten involved," one GM divisional marketing executive said.

Mr. Smale, the former Procter & Gamble Co. chairman, may have used his in fluence to keep Mr. Guarascio on board, suggested one GM agency executive.

Although Mr. Guarascio is often regarded as the U.S.' most powerful media buyer, he hasn't won the VP title that a number of other GM general managers carry.

At least in part, that's a reflection of GM's corporate culture, where engineers and accountants share the top rungs of power.

Joe Mandese contributed to this story.

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