Saatchi N.Y.’s Ben Bittman Preps Exit

The head of new business development at Saatchi & Saatchi’s New York headquarters is leaving the agency after less than a year.

Ben Bittman joined the Publicis Groupe shop in July 2009 as chief marketing officer, and will exit on May 14, the agency confirmed.

Saatchi intends to fill the role with a “senior executive” who’ll focus on external and internal client development, a shop representative said. Office CEO Mary Baglivo will lead the search.

On Bittman’s watch, the agency was a finalist in several big reviews — including, Pizza Hut and Chase United credit card — but ultimately failed to convert.

To get expenses in line with revenue, the shop has cut staffers. The most recent cut involved six staffers and occurred within the last few weeks, according to sources. A Saatchi representative declined to discuss the layoffs.

Bittman’s exit comes as Saatchi recasts its New York management team. Last month, Saatchi hired Euro RSCG’s Con Williamson to succeed Gerry Graf as chief creative officer. Graf had held the post for two years and his contractual obligations end in July, when Williamson, who previously was CCO of Euro RSCG’s New York office, will likely start, said sources. Graf plans to launch his own shop.

New York’s other leaders remain the same: Baglivo, who also is CEO of the Americas, and Claudine Cheever, who is director of strategic planning. The office’s top clients are Procter & Gamble, General Mills and JC Penney.