Cuneo Shop Declares Bankruptcy: Chapter 11 Filing Details Debt of Almost $2 Mil., Mostly to Media

By David Gianatasio

BOSTON–Crippled by the loss of regional Chevrolet dealer business and overwhelmed by debt, Cuneo Sullivan Dolabany filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws.

The defunct Boston agency claimed total assets of $125,000 and liabilities of slightly less than $1.9 million, spread out among 80 creditors including most of the region’s network television affiliates, according to the filing made late last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Boston.

The largest single creditor is WCVB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Needham, Mass., to which Cuneo Sullivan owes $433,000, according to the filing. Next in line among the creditors is WHDH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston ($394,000), followed by WBZ-TV, Boston’s CBS affiliate ($215,000), and WFXT-TV in Dedham, Mass., a Fox station ($149,000).

The first hearing on the case is scheduled for June 27.

Cuneo Sullivan counsel Pamela Harbeson of the Boston law firm Looney & Grossman did not return calls by press time. Agency president John Cuneo likewise did not return phone calls.

The agency’s offices at 745 Boylston Street were empty and dark last week, with only a single telephone on the carpet near the door.

Cuneo has apparently regrouped with about five employees to form Cuneo Communications, a new marketing venture in Boston.

Agency partner and creative director Dana Dolabany was not listed on the startup’s voicemail directory. He was said by sources to be seeking employment.

Founded in 1981, Cuneo Sullivan had a long run as a modestly successful mid-sized agency but was rocked in April when Chevrolet’s New England Area Marketing Group moved its estimated $15 million account to Strong Automotive Merchandising in Birmingham, Ala. (Adweek, April 7). Cuneo Sullivan had retained the business in a February review but lost it shortly thereafter amid criticism by TV and radio station executives for being slow to pay its bills after Chevy ads had been placed or ran. The problem became so serious that following the reassignment to Cuneo Sullivan, broadcast outlets complained to Chevrolet officials in Detroit and the account was taken from the agency.

Cuneo Sullivan’s deal to market and produce cable TV football game telecasts for the Eastern College Athletic Conference was scrapped when the shop filed for Chapter 11 protection, and it will not be revived with Cuneo’s new venture, said ECAC marketing director Sam Gwynne.

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