Eisner Closes Doors After 67 Years

DALLAS Long-struggling Eisner Communications in Baltimore on Friday closed it doors after 67 years in operation.

Approximately 50 employees who lost their jobs on Friday did not receive their final paychecks, sources said.

Chairman Steve Eisner was the majority owner of the independent shop; he could not be reached for comment.

Attorney Jim Astrachan, speaking on behalf of the company, said Eisner would not file for bankruptcy, but would sell its remaining assets. Three vendor lawsuits filed against Eisner in the last month are likely to be settled out of court; the plaintiffs are Bright Ideas Advertising Specialties, Engine Performance and the National Geographic Society, he said.

Astrachan said the agency shut down because it ran out of money. The shop has been troubled by declining revenue and key staff defections since losing the $20 million U.S. Airways account in 2005 after the client’s merger with AmericaWest.

“Most agencies have contingency plans so that if they lose a major client, they immediately lay off a certain number of people,” Astrachan said. “Eisner waited too long to do that.”

Eisner, listed among Adweek‘s Top 100 agencies in 2004, saw its billings and revenue fall 44 percent in 2005 to $180 million and $18 million, respectively. One source said the agency closed with less than half the employees it had one year ago.

Among Eisner’s remaining clients were the Maryland Lottery, the National Aquarium, Provident Bank and Spirit Airlines. The lottery, which spends about $5 million annually on ads, is expected to begin a review, possibly as soon as this week, according to Astrachan.

“We are disappointed to see Eisner go,” said Spirit representative Rebecca Rivera. “However our marketing team’s cutting-edge interactive marketing will continue without disruption.” She did not elaborate. Spirit was one of the agency’s largest remaining clients, spending $10 million in measured media last year, per TNS Media Intelligence.

Other client officials could not be reached for comment.

Another Baltimore agency, GKV, has hired 10 Eisner employees and is expected to make a run at some of the clients the shop left behind, per sources. GKV declined comment.

Steve Eisner, son of the company namesake, stepped down as president and chief executive officer to take the role of chairman in a reorganization last year. British advertising executive Jeremy Clarke ran the company as CEO.

Clarke trimmed management and shut down three units: Underground, Eisner Interactive and Eisner PR. A group of executives from Underground started a new Baltimore agency, Exit 10.

Eisner was founded in 1939 by Sidney A. Levyne as S.A. Levyne Advertising. Henry Eisner bought the company in 1966 and renamed it Eisner & Associates in 1975.