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MacManus Faces Tough Choices

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Agencies Eye MediaVest Clients; Bostock Looking for Partnerships
NEW YORK--Media shops last week began circling around clients of MediaVest Worldwide in the wake of the shop's loss of Irwin Gotlieb to rival WPP Group. The maneuvering comes as Roy Bostock, chairman and CEO of parent MacManus Group, faces several options--from merging with another company to an outright sale.
"All's fair in love and war," said one source last week. "Anytime a leader of [Gotlieb's] reputation and stature suddenly departs phone calls will be made to some of their clients."
MediaVest counts $8 billion in billings from, among others, Procter & Gamble, General Motors and Coca-Cola. Of P&G, Charlie Rutman, evp, managing director of Carat USA, said: "Their antenna is up, but big accounts have survived when top [executives] have left."
P&G last week said it had no plans to shift any part of its $1.2 billion in broadcast duties. "Our confidence in MediaVest continues," said a P&G representative. "Irwin was important, but he also had a team, notably [evp and director of strategic planning] Donna Salvatore, who heads up our account."
Yet, P&G will likely examine its relationship in the wake of Gotlieb's exit and the expected year-end departure of evp, director for national broadcast Rino Scanzoni.
P&G's other U.S. media shops are Leo Burnett's Starcom USA (print), Zenith Media (radio and outdoor) and Grey Advertising's MediaCom (Hispanic broadcast). Relationships being everything, P&G could entertain overtures from Omnicom's OMD, led by former P&G worldwide media chief Daryl Simm.
Bostock was in Cincinnati with P&G late last week, but he insisted his visit "flat out didn't" have anything to do with media and was related to an Internet venture. "No operation is one person. [MediaVest] has very strong people running the business," he said.
Still, the departures leave Bostock examining his options, which (with P&G's newly relaxed conflict policy) could include a sale to The Interpublic Group of Cos., an alliance or an IPO.
"We continue to look for partnerships to strengthen ourselves internationally," he said.
Bostock acknowledged discussions with Tempus some months ago, but said there were no recent talks. He strongly denied talks with IPG and said no other deals were imminent.
Bostock brought in Mike Moore, 61, to run MediaVest, but sources said his role is only temporary. A search for a new leader could prove difficult.
"They're in deep doo-doo," said Jean Pool, executive vice president, North America media services director for J. Walter Thompson. "There's a paucity of talent in the business, so when you lose somebody, it hurts."
--with Andrew McMains