Peter Stranger Out at JWT West

Peter Stranger will step down as CEO of J. Walter Thompson West at the end of the year, a victim of belt-tightening measures, the agency confirmed.

No successor will be named. Instead, the two offices Stranger has been leading—Los Angeles and San Francisco—will each have their own management.

Former Ogilvy & Mather chairman Jerry McGee will become president in L.A. The San Francisco office will be run by managing partners Kevin Burke and Iwan Thomis.

Burke’s company, Tonic 360, was acquired a year ago by JWT but had operated independently until last month, when a merger created JWT & Tonic. Thomis had been general manager of JWT San Francisco prior to the merger and was responsible for strategic planning.

An agency representative confirmed Stranger’s imminent departure and said the move was spurred largely by economics. “We respect Peter and are grateful for a job well done,” the representative said. “In this cost-cutting mode, this is a move that made sense for Peter and made sense for the company.”

The news follows two major developments that effectively created a new layer of management in the two offices.

In August, McGee moved from Ogilvy in L.A. to sister WPP shop JWT after client Symantec made the same switch [Adweek, Aug. 20]. Once at JWT, McGee established a semi-autonomous unit dedicated to the estimated $25 million Symantec account and staffed by individuals he had brought from Ogilvy.

More recently, the creation of JWT & Tonic brought a new leadership team and a greater emphasis on technology to JWT’s San Francisco operation. Burke had built Tonic 360 into one of the dominant tech shops in the Bay Area, with billings of about $130 million.

In a memo to staff, Stranger, 52, said, “I am extremely proud of our achievements together. JWT now has the foundation in place to achieve a meaningful position in the Southern California advertising landscape. For me, it is satisfying to part on a high note.”