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(Aug. 2, 2001) -- AKQA, the Accenture-backed combination of online and offline marketing disciplines, has apparently laid off a large number of workers at its San Francisco office, and several senior executives are said to be in the process of leaving the company.

In San Francisco,some current and former employees said that the office had let go more than half of its staff. The office had employed more than 125 people as of earlier this year. Ad execs in the San Francisco area also said that they have heard that the remaining AKQA employees had been forced to take a pay cut of as much as 10%. AKQA's main San Francisco client is Palm.

Among the departing executives are believed to be Bill Erosh, chief financial officer and Bob Poulin, chief global officer. Advertising Age was unsuccessful in contacting Mr. Poulin and Mr. Erosh at AKQA's New York office -- a voicemail at that location referred all callers to the San Francisco office. London-based AKQA co-chairman and founder Ajaz Ahmed referred calls regarding the company to Chief Operating Officer Tom Bedecarre. Mr. Bedecarre didn't return calls.

Meanwhile, sources indicated that Visa Interactive has narrowed its search to two I-shops, one of them believed to be AKQA. That business has been in review among finalists Modem Media, San Francisco, minority-owned by Interpublic Group of Cos. and the joint team of Omnicom Group's BBDO, which handles Visa's traditional business, and Organic, which is minority-owned by Seneca Investments, the e-services company managed by Omnicom and Pegasus Partners. Calls to Visa were not returned. Select Resources International, which handled the review, said a decision would be announced next week. -- Alice Z. Cuneo and Catharine P. Taylor

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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