SRI President Departs

LOS ANGELES Russel Wohlwerth, president of Select Resources International, said he is leaving the consulting company.

“There has been much speculation in the press over my decision to leave SRI,” Wolhwerth said, in a statement. “I can only say that [CEO] Catherine [Bension] and I are parting ways on the best of terms and there is no credence to any of the stories previously reported in the media.” He could not be immediately reached for additional comment.

Wohlwerth issued the statement in response to recent published reports in which media outlets cited unnamed sources suggesting that he and Bension were at odds over compensation and accounting practices that would artificially lower the Santa Monica, Calif., consultancy’s income, diminishing the value of company founder Mike Agate’s buyout.

Bension said Wohlwerth left to pursue another unspecified venture, but she did not elaborate.

She characterized the move as “something Russel initiated—it was his decision. It was about nothing specific.”

The two had helmed SRI for the past six years.

Bension now assumes the presidency, which she held for five years before Wohlwerth was elevated to that position in 2005. He joined the company in 2000 from Omnicom’s DDB in Los Angeles.

There are no plans to replace Wohlwerth, Bension said. All of Wohlwerth’s projects have been successfully resolved, she added, including the now-concluded Barclays Global Investors ad account review.

Bension said Wohlwerth’s departure would not affect reviews going forward, which include contests for five separate pieces of Wal-Mart, which she is personally overseeing. All told, the retail giant spends $570 million annually in measured media.

Agate today said published reports of financial malfeasance at SRI “were a total surprise and have no standing whatsoever. I have good relationships with Catherine and the company and I’ve stayed actively involved and have total access to what’s going on as well as [to] the company’s financial activity. There has been no wrongdoing. I was shocked by the rumors.”

Agate sold his interest in SRI in 2002, and has remained involved owing to a lengthy buyout period, during which he has acted as a consultant to the agency search company. In that capacity, he recently helped it organize Select Resources University, a management-training initiative intended to help clients such as Amgen, Intel and California AAA better manage their agency relationships, he said.

“SRI is a brand that we are proud of and which has an impressive track record,” Bension said. “A well-managed company will endure. SRI is bigger than any one person.”