IPG Pulls Plug on ‘Saatchi 17’

NEW YORK Interpublic Group is ending its two-year investment in a group of former Saatchi & Saatchi executives that became known as the Saatchi 17, IPG confirmed today.

Under IPG, the group operated a New York agency known as oneseven that occupied the midtown office space of sister shop Lowe. Its clients include ConAgra Foods’ Hebrew National, Gorton’s seafood, McGraw-Hill’s BusinessWeek, Dun & Bradstreet and Unicef.

IPG is now in the process of shuttering the operation, with the goal of finding other homes, if possible, for the executives and clients. “We have finalized decisions regarding separation from oneseven,” said an IPG representative. “They are a talented group of professionals and we hope some will find opportunities within the group; others have chosen to go forward independently.”

CEO Anne Adriance could not be reached. Mike Burns, a consultant who serves as chairman of oneseven, said, “Over the past 18 months, we’ve built a solid agency foundation for oneseven with our client partners. We’re now looking forward to growing our business with an independent focus and an entrepreneurial energy.”

All but one of the 17 executives had worked on General Mills at Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi in New York. They walked out on Feb. 14, 2005, three days after Burns, Saatchi’s former worldwide account director on General Mills, left the agency.

IPG subsequently hired them, with the expectation that General Mills business would follow. Saatchi, however, restaffed the account and, to date, the agency’s New York office has not lost any of its Big G assignments, which include Cheerios, Pillsbury, Wheaties and Yoplait.

During the same period, Saatchi sued Burns in New York State Supreme Court, on claims that he orchestrated the exodus of the Saatchi 17. The suit accused Burns, a 25-year veteran of Saatchi, of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of loyalty and breach of contract.

Burns, in court papers, however, countered that Saatchi had failed to show damages. In July, the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.