AOL Cuts ‘Short’ Its Relationship With Gotham

New YORK America Online’s Friday dismissal of longtime agency Gotham came just two days after agency executives met new evp of brand marketing Len Short, sources said. The move sets the stage for a review of the estimated $150-200 million account.

Sources said AOL has retained Pile and Co. in Boston to compile a list of shops for the pitch. Executives at the consulting company declined comment.

Interpublic Group’s Gotham had handled U.S. creative duties on AOL since 1997. The New York shop survived several changes in client management, as well as AOL’s 2001 merger with Time Warner. Short, however, told the shop it would not be invited to defend, sources said.

It is not known whether media duties, now at Initiative Media North America in New York, are also in play.

Short did not return calls.

Stone Roberts, CEO of Gotham, also could not be reached. But in a memo to staffers, he noted: “Under the most demanding circumstances, we worked together to build a company with 35 million subscribers and built the most successful of all Internet companies. In fact, they were so successful that their success put them in a position where they acquired Time Warner two years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that Gotham’s role was integral to this.”

Short first met agency executives Wednesday in New York, and Gotham presented work, sources said. The next day, the Dulles, Va., client announced Short’s arrival. The former Charles Schwab & Co. marketing exec is charged with overseeing domestic and international marketing efforts. He reports to president of marketing Joe Redling.

Short was at Schwab for five years. He left his post as evp for advertising and brand management in August 2000 and later served as a consultant to startups and venture-capital firms. Through the years, Short has worked with agencies such as BBDO, The Martin Agency and Lowe.