Move Ends Three Stormy Years at Ad Network

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After nearly three stormy years, Bob Brennan is out as president of Leo Burnett Worldwide, the Publicis Groupe ad network announced this afternoon.

Temporary oversight
Burnett Chairman-CEO Linda Wolf will temporarily take on Mr. Brennan's duties for North America, including the U.S. agency's flagship office, Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. Additionally, Roger Haupt, president and chief operating officer of Publicis Groupe, will cover the Europe/Middle East/Africa region until a new regional managing director is named.

Today's announcement caps a year of tumult for Burnett under new owner Publicis. The agency has not released a timetable for additional changes. Ms. Wolf told AdAge.com the network, Publicis' largest, is looking to hire a regional managing director for Europe but not for the U.S.

Mr. Brennan has repeatedly declined to discuss the situation. When reached at home this week, he said he was on vacation.

Ms. Wolfe wouldn't comment on whether the timing of Mr. Brennan's departure was due to his exercising a change in his contract.

"Bob is leaving because he wants to do something different," she said. "When companies go through major acquisitions, it gives [executives] time to step back and reflect and think about what they ultimately want to do."

No further changes
She said she doesn't anticipate any other personnel changes for the "foreseeable future."

Mr. Brennan and Ms. Wolf were named to their roles in October 2000 as part of a management shakeup, during which Mr. Haupt became CEO of the agency's previous parent, Bcom3 Group, with the responsiblity for taking the company public. When Publicis bought Burnett, Mr. Haupt said he accomplished that goal.

Mr. Brennan, who is at once charming and intimidating, was seen by many employees and observers as the agency's "Chainsaw Al," delegated to making the hard moves of restructuring the "New Burnett," according to several executives within the agency. He personally oversaw many of the hundreds of staff reductions and departmental shifts that prepared the agency for the Publicis buyout.

Stunning appointment
Mr. Brennan's appointment as president of Leo Burnett stunned the industry as the then-chief operating officer of Starcom MediaVest Group had spent his entire career in media services. He joined Burnett in 1982 as a media buyer and planner and in 1988 was named a vice president. A year later, he became media director, overseeing the McDonald's Corp. business.

In 1995 became director international media. Two years later, he was named president of Starcom when it separated from Leo Burnett and in March 1999, Mr. Brennan helped launch Starcom Worldwide as chief operating officer. When Starcom and MediaVest merged in 2000, he became chief operating officer of the combined entity, Starcom MediaVest Group. Mr. Brennan was credited for building Starcom into one of the most powerful media organizations in the industry. But since moving to the advertising side, he has had mixed success.

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