Burnett Investigates Defection of Chemistri CCO

NEW YORK Leo Burnett said it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the impending departure of Gary Topolewski, who is leaving GM unit Chemistri, where he was chairman and chief creative, for a post at BBDO, where he will work on DaimlerChrysler brands.

At BBDO in Detroit, he will be co-chief creative, along with Bill Morden. Topolewski and Morden worked together on Jeep (one of the Daimler brands now at BBDO) during the 1990s at Foote Cone & Belding.

This is the second defection from Chemistri in a week: Patrick Sherwood, president and chief executive of the Troy, Mich.-based agency, said last week that he is leaving the shop in June to pursue other ventures, according to a statement issued on April 28 by Tom Bernardin, president of Leo Burnett Worldwide and CEO of Leo Burnett USA.

“Although Gary has promised to remain with the agency for a transitional period at our discretion, we’re disappointed with the timing of his decision, and we are looking carefully at the circumstances surrounding his recruitment by BBDO,” Bernardin said in a statement. “Gary has helped build a great team at Chemistri with deep bench strength, and chief operating officer Stan Fields and I will work closely to find a new creative leader who will maximize the combined strength and resources of both Chemistri and Leo Burnett.”

Topolewski, 47, was to work with COO D. Stan Fields and Bernardin to run Chemistri, with Publicis Groupe president, COO Roger Haupt continuing to serve in a senior advisory capacity.