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Leo Burnett Tech Group Cuts 10 Percent of Staff

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Stung by cutbacks and failures among its emerging technology clients, Leo Burnett Technology Group laid off about 10 percent of its workforce last week, with most of the cuts coming in San Francisco and Boston.

"With the technology crash, a lot of the com panies in our portfolio have cut back spending or ceased to exist," said Sean Bisceglia, CEO of the company, formerly known as TFA/Leo Burnett Technology Group.

The news comes as several large agency networks are cutting staff in the Bay Area, in part due to fallout from sagging dot-com and technology businesses. Layoffs also hit San Francisco shops Publicis & Hal Riney and McCann-Erickson/A&L last week, sources said.

At Burnett, some 25 staffers were let go in all. Before the layoffs, total staff numbered 210. Sources said about one-quarter of the 40-45 employees in Boston were laid off. Specfic numbers could not be determined for San Francisco.

The company's Chicago office lost no workers, and only one or two people lost their jobs in Austin, Texas, Bisceglia said. The layoffs were made across-the-board, in creative, planning, account services and administration, he said.

Agency presidents Robert Ahearn in San Francisco and Jeff Winsper in Boston did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The shop, acquired by Chicago agency Leo Burnett two years ago, changed its name this month in an effort to broaden its client base beyond high-tech business-to-business clients and snare more consumer technology accounts. The reshaped business plan is being implemented to stabilize the agency by branching out, Bisceglia said.

"We have to get away from emerging technologies," he said.

The unit boosted revenues by 79 percent last year and hired 83 people in that time, Bisceglia said. The fourth-quarter tech down turn hit the company hard.