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Ax to Fall at D'Arcy

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NEW YORK -- D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles is sharpening the ax to slice its New York staff of 400 down by about half, sources said last week.

The cuts are expected to begin this week as part of Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO Maurice Levy's plans to get the operation in shape before Jan 1. The remaining clients and staffers will be moved to other Publicis-owned shops. Decisions on the transition of D'Arcy's clients, such as Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and Heineken, are slated to be made by Nov. 18.

Some 200 New York staffers are expected to be let go. It was unclear if D'Arcy in Los Angeles and Detroit would be immediately affected, but sources said layoffs will take place in the L.A. office before it is rebranded as Publicis. The Detroit office will morph into a division of Leo Burnett.

Susan Gianinno, chief branding officer at D'Arcy, who will become CEO of Publicis USA once her current agency is dissolved, said reports of layoffs are "groundless."

"Our single-minded goal is to successfully transition great clients and great people to the new environment. There are no layoffs planned at the moment," she said.

However, one source said, "If you're not tied to a client [at D'Arcy], you're history. Back-office duties can be absorbed by another agency immediately."

At the most senior level, sources said co-executive creative director Graham Woodall, who ran the creative department before the arrival of Lee Garfinkel, will not make the cut. The fate of New York president Lance Smith, who also runs the P&G account, could not be determined at press time. Gianinno would not comment on their status.

A source said employees with contracts will be paid the remainder of their salaries. Others will get a minimum of four weeks' severance.

Worldwide chief creative officer Lee Garfinkel was in Paris last week to meet with Levy about taking the Publicis worldwide creative job. Sources said he was still mulling whether or not to accept the job.