Liszt Out at CME?

Reorg Places Dunlap in Driver’s Seat
CHICAGO–A reorganization at Campbell Mithun Esty has centralized control with chairman Bill Dunlap, and could lead to the exit of CEO Howard Liszt, sources said.
The agency is now looking for a way to finance Liszt’s severance package, sources said.
Chief creative officer Jim White, hired by Liszt in June 1998, split with the $900 million Minneapolis agency about two weeks ago. He was replaced by CME vet John Hurst. White was undone in part by his strategy of having creative teams compete against each other. Sources said the agency needed a “more democratic” approach. White was unavailable for comment.
Liszt joined the agency in 1976 and was named CEO in 1995. The agency has since grown from $600 million in billings to over $900 million last year.
However, sources said Liszt had lost close contact with the agency’s key clients, including ConAgra, which moved Healthy Choice ($30 million) to Grey Advertising late last year. This summer, CME client Domino’s tapped its minority agency, Don Coleman Advertising, to create a new tagline.
Liszt said he had no plans to leave and dismissed the notion as “rumors.”
The reorganization began last month, when president Les Mouser added the COO title and took over day-to-day operations, which had been Liszt’s job. Liszt’s focus became new business and acquisitions.
It was not clear if the moves were being driven by Dunlap or CME parent the Interpublic Group of Cos. The agency declined comment; IPG did not return calls.