Burnett Set to End Regional Net

Leo Burnett Technology Group will shutter its office in Austin, Texas, at the end of the month, rolling up the final remnant of its regional network.

Twenty-one full-time staff members are affected by the closure. Leo Burnett Technology Group (LBTG) had already downsized from a high of 39 employees last fall.

The decision was made “as part of our strategy to closely align our business-to-business experts at LBTG with our business-to-consumer experts at Leo Burnett USA headquarters [in Chicago],” said a company spokesperson in a statement.

LBTG president Scott Murray, who opened the Austin office in March two years ago, declined to comment about the closure.

LBTG in Austin posted revenue and billings growth of 60 percent last year, despite the loss of founding clients Efficient Networks of Dallas and the Motorola Semiconductor Division in Austin. Billings for 2000 were reported at $33 million and revenue at $5 million.

Last year the agency had a peak total of 11 clients and was riding a string of new business wins. Early in the first quarter of 2001, however, high-tech clients such as Vignette and i2 Technologies dramatically slashed their budgets. Spending for other accounts also declined. Vignette, still facing troubled times, remains the agency’s largest current client.

An agency source said that LBTG’s recent losses only accelerated the inevitable.

“The decision to centralize had already been made; it was just a matter of working out the timing,” the source said.

Burnett closed its Boston office (12 employees) last month and its San Francisco office in March.

It was uncertain at press time if any Austin employees would be offered positions in Chicago, which was the case for some of their network peers in other cities.

The technology division continues to be led in Chicago by Jeff Jones, the former Burnett account director and marchFirst executive who took charge of LBTG earlier this year.

Jones assumed LBTG leadership from the unit’s founder, Sean Bisceglia, who left in March.

Bisceglia had sold the unit, initially known as TFA/Leo Burnett, to the agency in 1998, seven years after starting it. Originally called Total Focus Approach, the shop was headquartered in Chicago but had an office in Boston when Burnett bought it.