IPG’s Lotito Frontrunner for Big 3 Online Exchange

LOS ANGELES—Mike Lotito, who resigned as president of Initiative Media North America last month [Adweek, March 19], is a leading candidate to head the gestating online media exchange being created by Omnicom, The Interpublic Group of Cos. and WPP, sources said. Discussions on creating an industry standard for media buying electronically, in the works for months [Adweek, March 26], are expected to conclude within the next few weeks. Other holding companies, such as Bcom3, may join once the exchange begins.

Office Depot Close to Tapping BBDO for $60 Mil. Biz

NEW YORK—Office Depot is in talks with BBDO to handle its estimated $60 million account, sources said. Incumbent Gold Coast Advertising in Miami did not participate. New York consultancy Jones Lundin Beals handled the review. Grey in New York and DDB in Chicago also contended. The client could not be reached; BBDO declined comment.

J.P. Morgan Splits With MVBMS/Euro RSCG

NEW YORK—Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmet terer/Euro RSCG in New York and J.P. Morgan & Co. are parting, sources said. Ad duties for the client, which merged with The Chase Manhattan Corp. in January, have shifted to Chase’s lead agency, FCB in New York, sources said. The client, now J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., could not be reached. MVBMS/Euro RSCG handled J.P. Morgan’s corporate-image account since 1998. J.P. Morgan spent about $35 million in media last year, per Competitive Media Reporting.

Siebel Taps Publicis & Hal Riney for $40 Mil. Account

SAN FRANCISCO—Siebel Systems has switched its $40 million account from TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa Del Rey, Calif., to Publicis & Hal Riney, here, said sources. The switch comes two months after TBWA\C\D took the business. Sources said TBWA\C\D had presented the client with a campaign when Siebel abruptly parted with the shop; Riney was handed the business shortly thereafter.

Hempel Leaves Lowe; Fallon Search Continues

NEW YORK—Senior executives at Lowe Lintas & Partners will absorb Peter Hempel’s duties as general manager, account management, when he leaves this month to be evp of marketing at The Gap in San Francisco. Hempel is filling a vacancy left when Jim Nevins departed in the fall. His post will not be filled “at this time,” an agency representative said. Separately, Fallon continues to search for a director of account management. The search began in December, after John Mittnacht left.

Omnicom Buys Lieber Levett

NEW YORK—Omnicom has acquired Lieber Levett Koenig Farese Babcock, a New York direct marketing shop. Terms were undisclosed. Lieber Levett, which has a nonequity alliance with Saatchi & Saatchi, becomes an autonomous unit of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services.

Account Activity

After a review for its $14 million account, American Trans Air eschewed finalists J. Walter Thompson, Euro RSCG Tatham, Grant/Jacoby, all in Chicago, and Martin/Williams in Minneapolis, and instead awarded Publicis in Mid America what amounts to a creative project.