BOSTON–A sweeping round of executive changes and layoffs at Bronner Slosberg Humphrey, including the retirement of president Steve Humphrey and the reassignment of chief creative officer Michael Slosberg, was positioned last week by chairman Michael Bronner as a “shifting of resources” necessitated by agency growth.
Sources close to the direct marketing giant, however, said the moves also signal a consolidation of power with Bronner and David Kenny, the former Bain & Co. executive named chief operating officer in September.
Humphrey, who had been an architect of the Boston shop’s rapid expansion throughout the 1990s, retired as the year began, Bronner said. He would not discuss the status of Humphrey’s minority stake in the agency but said the title of president is not currently in use.
According to Kenny, Humphrey “made the decision a year ago to leave . . . After growing [Strategic Interactive Group], there was nothing left for him to do.”
Slosberg, who last summer ceded management of the 120-person creative department to a cadre of deputies, will spend much of his time in the shop’s newly formed New York office to oversee creative work on American Express, one of the agency’s largest accounts, Bronner said. Slosberg and Humphrey could not be reached for comment last week.
Bronner Slosberg’s chief financial officer, Robert Stoloff, an employee for nine years, said he is leaving but declined to elaborate. “We needed someone with more big-company experience,” said Kenny, who indicated that a chief financial officer with a public company background will come aboard in March.
In addition, Bronner said an “adjustment” was made in the creative ranks due to what he called “overstaffing.” At least five employees were let go, he said.
Among those cut was creative director Robert Solow, a seven-year agency veteran who worked primarily on AT&T. Solow said recent AT&T budget cutbacks caused “a ripple effect” that led to the layoffs. Bronner said, however, that AT&T spending cuts were not the main reason for the layoffs. He would not elaborate.
One source suggested the layoffs took place to free up money needed to support the agency’s recent expansion into the New York and San Francisco markets, a notion Bronner dismissed. “We had 90 employees six years ago and we have 850 now. Our needs have changed and we’ve moved resources around” to respond to those changes, Bronner said.
“With New York and San Francisco . . . that requires a different, more decentralized approach to management,” said Kenny, who promised more “comings and goings” in the weeks ahead.
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