Changing the face of Ayer

The face of Ayer is about to undergo change as the influence of Richard Humphreys, the leader of the international investment group that bought a major stake in the 124-year-old private agency in March, begins to be felt.
Sources familiar with the situation said Humphreys is currently looking for high-powered executives in the U.S. and abroad to assume top management positions at the $1.5-billion agency.
Meanwhile, change has already come to the agency among the rank and file as last week Ayer laid off roughly 5% of the staff–or about 30 employees–at its flagship New York office. As part of the layoffs, Ayer eliminated its print production department and reorganized its traffic department.
The first of the new management team currently being recruited will come in at the coo level, sources said.”The new guy will come in as a coo-type and a stockholder . . . and not a very passive one,” said one source.
Subsequently, the day-to-day operating responsibilities of top Ayer managers such as chairman/ceo Jerry Siano and vice chairman/coo Tom Maxey are expected to change. Siano and Humphreys were in Europe and unavailable for comment. Nor could Maxey be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Siano and Humphreys are stepping up their searches for acquisition targets in advertising and below-the-line areas, and sources said that Humphreys has already opened talks to try and reclaim the 75% of Ayer Europe that Ayer sold to reduce debt. Meanwhile, it is said that Siano is exploring acquisition targets in North America.
“These changes are being made so Ayer can move forward in a much more dynamic manner,” said one source. “Everyone involved knows about these changes and there is no contention within the ranks. Management is in agreement.”
Ayer executives have repeatedly stated that Humphreys and his partners don’t control the agency, but sources have maintained since this spring that the Humphreys group held a majority stake and is eventually aiming for full ownership. “Don’t expect them to sit back,” said another source familiar with Humphreys’ tactics. “(Humphreys) wants to own a big American agency.”
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)