Creature Seattle Closes After Filing for Bankruptcy

By Patrick Coffee 

Creature Seattle, the indie shop named AdAge’s Small Agency of the Year, Northwest in 2014, has closed after filing for bankruptcy six weeks ago. W+K veteran Matt Peterson and Jim Haven of GS&P founded the agency, which lasted 14 years and reported $32 million in revenue for 2013.

One week ago, Seattle’s Puget Sound Business Journal published an exclusive regarding the bankruptcy filing, which happened on May 31st after Creature partner Time, Inc. sued the agency over unpaid bills for ads placed within its properties. The filing was an attempt to let the organization reorganize while preparing to pay its various debts.

In the initial filing, Peterson and Haven listed their company’s assets as $500,000 to $1 million and its total liabilities as $2.6 million. Its creditors include AOL Advertising, Clear Channel, A&E, ESPN, NBC, iHeartMedia and Vox Media (among others), with individual unsecured claims ranging from $42,000 to $283,000.

The agency, which still had active contracts with clients including Amazon, Apple, and others at the time of the initial filing, got sued on May 6th. On that date, lawyers for Time, Inc. alleged that the company had failed to pay more than $110,000 after placing an ad campaign. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal article, Haven also recently left Creature to join Heyou Media, a content production company started by Tom Skerritt (and yes, he is the actor you remember from Alien, Top Gun and Picket Fences). That firm’s homepage currently lists Haven as co-founder and chief promotional officer and, oddly, Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis as an advisor. Nick Gesualdi, who served as director of client management and new business at Creature, also left to join Amazon as a senior campaign manager this month.

It’s unclear at this time exactly why the agency had been unable to pay so many of its bills. Creature’s lawyers and those of its creditors have made various filings throughout June and July, many of them concerning payment deadlines and the use of cash collateral. The most recent, which was filed yesterday, marked Creature client Ricoh’s request to be added to “the official mailing matrix and service lists in this case.”

We last heard about Creature in February, when Dickie’s ended its relationship with the agency after four years. We also posted more than a year ago about the departure of former Creature CEO and Seattle-area politician James Keblas, who left after approximately one year to launch a public policy/city planning consultancy called City Inspired.

Tipsters claimed earlier this week that Creature will officially go out of business on August 1, but a Google search tells us the shop is already “permanently closed.” We did not receive a response to email queries this week, and our phone calls went directly to an automated “To speak to a representative, press 0” recording.

Creature opened a London office in 2011. That operation has been a separate company since 2013, and it was not affected by this development. Managing partner/co-founder Dan Shute writes, “Jim & Matt are brilliant folk, and we wish them all the best with their next endeavour, but we’re two businesses that share a name, and nothing more–and have been for a number of years now.”

The U.K. Creature currently employs more than 50 people and works with such clients as Adidas, Uber and Truvia.

It’s unclear at this time how many jobs have been lost in Seattle. Creature’s LinkedIn page claims 50-200 employees, but based on past news about the shop we believe the number of affected staffers to be significantly lower.

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