Chairman of GM Unit Chemistri Leaps to Rival Shop

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In rapid succession today, Leo Burnett announced that Gary Topolewski, the chairman and chief creative officer of its Chemistri unit, had
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resigned and that the company was investigating his unexpected departure.

Mr. Topolewski, according to the company, is joining rival BBDO Worldwide.

"We're looking carefully at the circumstances and business practices surrounding his recruitment by BBDO," said Julie Thompson, a spokeswoman for Leo Burnett, part of Publicis Groupe.

The spokeswoman wouldn't elaborate.

Violation of contract?
Presumably the agency will investigate whether Mr. Topolewski, who worked on General Motors Corp. at Chemistri and will work on DaimlerChrysler at BBDO, violated any noncompete or other covenants of his contract.

"We're not aware of any breach in Gary's contract," said Roy Elvolve, a spokesman for BBDO.

Headquartered in Troy, Mich., Chemistri, a unit of Leo Burnett Worldwide, is GM's dedicated advertising agency.

Chemistri early today said Mr. Topolewski was joining Omnicom Group's BBDO as its co-chief creative officer. Mr. Topolewski will partner with Bill Morden to work on the agency's Chrysler Group brands, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. BBDO Detroit, also based in Troy, was set up to service DaimlerChrysler. The two executives worked together on Jeep in the 1990s at Foote Cone & Belding.

Surprise move
Mr. Topolewski's surprise move comes just one week after Chemistri's president-CEO, Patrick Sherwood, announced he was leaving his post in June. Mr. Topolewski was supposed to help run Chemistri after Mr. Sherwood announced his departure.

"Although Gary has promised to remain with the agency for a transitional period at our discretion, we're disappointed with the timing of his decision," Leo Burnett Worldwide's president, Tom Bernardin, said in a release.

Another former Chemistri exec
"This is great news for the Chrysler Group and BBDO," said Joe Garcia, president of BBDO Detroit, who also came from Chemistri earlier this year. "Gary is regarded as one of the premier talents in the automotive industry and is no stranger to the Chrysler family, having worked on Jeep for more than 10 years."

At BBDO, Mr. Topolewski, 47, initially will focus on the Chrysler brand, while Mr. Morden continues to focus on the Dodge and Jeep accounts.

"Joining BBDO at this time couldn't be better," Mr. Topolewski said. "With the continuing Chrysler relaunch and more new-model launches planned, there has never been a greater opportunity to help contribute to the Chrysler business."

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