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Maybe it's the heat.

As temperatures in Los Angeles stubbornly held in the unseasonably high 90-plus range, two more agency executives abruptly exited major shops in southern California, bringing the total to four in the second half of June.

Phillip Joanou last week announced his retirement as chairman-CEO of Dailey & Associates, effective July 31, and John Noble unexpectedly quit as president-executive creative director at Bates USA West, Irvine.

Mr. Joanou, 61, said he would remain on the board of the Interpublic Group of Cos.' agency until yearend "and then re-evaluate."

He joined Dailey at its inception in 1968 and spent the next 26 years there, except for his work on the November Team in President Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign. Mr. Joanou is also creator of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

"It's time," Mr. Joanou said, adding he plans not to work but to attend to "personal business."

Cliff Einstein, 55, now president-creative director, will succeed Mr. Joanou. Brian Morris, 41, now exec VP-general manager, will become president.

Unlike Mr. Joanou's departure, Mr. Noble's exit was dramatic.

In a polite, two-sentence memo, Mr. Noble, 54, said he was leaving "regretfully."

Mr. Noble is best known for his work on the Volkswagen account while at Doyle Dane Bernbach, where his tenure ran from 1965 to 1986. He left the following year to form his own San Francisco agency. Mr. Noble joined Bates in early 1992 and was responsible for the Hyundai Motor America account.

Mr. Noble said he clashed with Bates' New York management, particularly over the promotion of Terry Mizzell, 43, to exec VP-general manager. "I was within two days of hiring the perfect general manager. Instead I had somebody jammed down my throat."

Hyundai executives praised Mr. Noble but said unequivocally Bates will keep the business. The agency named as acting creative director Bill Halladay, 44, senior VP-associate creative director.

Earlier last month, two other major area shops lost top executives. Foote, Cone & Belding, Santa Ana, accepted the resignation of Larry Kopald, exec VP-executive creative director. And Lord, Dentsu & Partners, Los Angeles, dismissed Leonard Pearlstein, 50, as president-chief operating officer.

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