By Published on .

LONDON-More than five long months after beginning its search for a new chairman to replace Maurice Saatchi, Cordiant is becoming more flexible-or maybe more desperate.

If a qualified candidate doesn't want to be chairman, he can be chief executive instead, said Charlie Scott, who is currently chief executive and acting chairman, at last week's annual meeting.

Although Mr. Scott said that "lots of people" are interested in the job, Cordiant doesn't seem close to appointing anyone, even though they have the pick of the two top jobs. (Mr. Scott says he'll keep the other one.)

Since the search began in January, Cordiant has lost business totaling 6% of the company's revenue, fired 470 people, and now says it will lose money for the first half of 1995. Analysts still expect a profit for the full year although it will be lower than last year's pre-tax profit of $52 million.

Last week, Mr. Scott denied reports that Cordiant's PR company, Rowland Worldwide, has made a management buyout proposal and that direct marketing unit Kobs & Draft is considering a similar proposal.

He said the company is in talks only with London agency KHBB, formerly part of the now-dismantled CME KHBB network, about a buyback.

A few candidates have been briefly rumored to be in the running for the Cordiant job. Peter Davies, a former top British publishing executive at Reed Elsevier, is believed to have been approached several months ago but took another job. The company has said before that an American would make sense, given that the U.S. accounts for more than 40% of Cordiant's revenue and many of the world's biggest clients.

"We're determined to get the right person," Mr. Scott said. "It's an international search. The person is more important than the nationality."

At the annual meeting, one shareholder suggested that the company be sure to hire someone who is "not an accountant," to better complement Mr. Scott, who is one.

Cordiant's profit for the first half of 1995 is being hit by one-time severance costs of about $16 million and a $25 million non-cash writeoff of goodwill from the April sale of Minneapolis agency Campbell Mithun Esty. Cordiant fired about 150 people, almost all at Bates Worldwide, after losing the $400 million Mars business. Another 16 were fired from the London office of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising this month and there were still other across-the-board cuts.

Mr. Scott said the company has replaced 3% of revenue-half the amount lost-with new assignments from Procter & Gamble Co., B.A.T and Johnson & Johnson.

He said the company's legal bills after reaching an out-of-court settlement with Mr. Saatchi and other former Saatchi executives who left to join his new agency will be $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

Most Popular
In this article: