Three Exit Saatchi After Shake-Up

NEW YORK — A “falling out” with worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts led to the recent exit of one longtime Saatchi & Saatchi executive and was followed by the departure of two more senior executives in New York and London.

First, worldwide chief operating officer Peter Cullinane resigned after confronting the CEO in December about his plan to seek an outsider to run the New York operation. Cullinane wanted the job in part because it would put him in line to succeed Roberts, sources said.

When Roberts told Cullinane he wasn’t being considered for the job, Cullinane left the shop abruptly, but not before e-mailing agency colleagues around the world. “I have been unable to arrive at an agreement with Kevin,” he wrote. “I do not have the opportunity to guide the agency as I want, and I find myself increasingly reluctant to follow as is wanted.”

That same day, Roberts informed his worldwide board that chairman international Alan Bishop was leaving, indicating there was no need to fill his post. Bishop, who like Cullinane was based in New York, was dismissed while he was in London.

New York was not the only office rocked by executive departures.

In London, Hugo Frederix, COO for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, resigned last week, leading one source to speculate that he wanted the job that Derek Bowden vacated last year. Bowden, who was the top executive for the same region, is expected to be succeeded by a Saatchi executive from Italy, said a source.

Meanwhile, Roberts has reached out to headhunters to find a CEO in New York, despite past statements that he was pleased with the current structure-a seven-person management partnership composed of senior account management executives, chief creative officer Tod Seisser and Mike Popernik, the chief financial officer for North America.

The partnership was set up in September 2000, following the departures of U.S. CEO and chairman Jennifer Laing and vice chairman Tony Dalton. At the time, Roberts said, “I’m pretty keen to see it as a long-term thing.”

One source said Roberts had been looking for about a year; another said the search heated up about three months ago.

Roberts did not return calls, and an agency representative declined comment. Cullinane and Bishop could not be reached.