Ex-Wolf Cleveland Execs Buy Out Agency

The Wolf Group Cleveland is now Melamed Riley Advertising following a buyout by the agency’s top executives.

The buyout, completed late last month, followed the late-January collapse of the shop’s parent, Toronto’s Wolf Group Integrated Communications. The agency, originally called Meldrum & Fewsmith, was acquired by Wolf in 1997 and renamed.

Keeping their titles, the new owners are president Sarah Melamed, 44, executive creative director Rick Riley, 43, and chief financial officer Chuck Hurley, 63.

As part of the deal, the new shop took on an undisclosed amount of media debt owed by Wolf when it closed, said Melamed, who declined to divulge further details of the buyout. The shop claims $32 million in billings and has a staff of 35.

“We knew we wanted to preserve what we built here,” said Melamed. The shop lost no clients through the transition and continues to work for Royal Appliance’s Dirt Devil and Channellock, among others, Melamed added. “Their loyalty was to the people here, not to Wolf,” she said.

“The newfound freedom” of owning the shop has led the executive team to decide it will focus its new-business efforts on what already is its core: home products, both hardware and housewares, Melamed said.

The deal closely follows an earlier buyout by executives at the former Wolf Group in Rochester, N.Y., now Partners & Napier under CEO Sharon Napier.

Wolf’s New York office, whose parent company collapsed under mounting financial pressures, closed Jan. 30. Sev- eral clients of that shop, including its cornerstone $80 million Scotts account, followed creative director Mike Rogers to his new operation, ML Rogers. Also going to ML Rogers were Aamco ($15 million), Arbor Mist wine ($10 million) and NASA ($1 million).