By Ellen Rooney Martin
CHICAGO--The week-apart departures of top creative and account executives at J. Walter Thompson here has John Clinton looking to fill two key positions 10 months into his tenure as general manager of the office.
Rita Winters, executive vice president and its executive creative director since 1994, said she will leave the agency for a six months' leave at the end of May to spend more time with her children and write a book. Because of the length of her absence, the agency will conduct a search for a replacement for the position, Winters said. A successor is expected by the end of next month, allowing Clinton to begin to put his personal stamp on the office.
Winters' announcement came on the heels of the departure of Ray Marione, senior partner, group management director and worldwide director of the Americas for Kraft Foods USA, who left to pursue other interests. His successor will head one of the office's anchor accounts, which include Kraft mayonnaise, Cheez Whiz, Philadelphia cream cheese and other brands.
Clinton, who succeeded J. Steve Davis as executive vice president and general manager last June, has seen several key posts turn over since then. Last September, Kay Allison was hired as the business development director for the Chicago office following the departure of Suzanne Hart. Loriann Dowell resigned as director of financial services earlier this year.
'I don't think it means anything,' Clinton said of the changes. 'I think overall the corporation is changing dramatically and (there are) evolutionary changes of people coming and going.'
Since Clinton took over the office, it has won the PageNet account and the Kraft mayonnaise assignment but came up short in the recent review for Gateway 2000 computers.
Last month, it lost its piece of Quaker Oats' media buying in a consolidation at Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago.
Clinton remains optimistic and philosophical about the office's track record. 'I think you always want to win more, but you win some and you lose some,' he said.
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