IPG’s Nelson to Depart Amid BofA Review

NEW YORK Bruce Nelson, chief marketing officer at Interpublic Group since 2000 and top executive on the holding company’s Bank of America business now in review, said today that he is leaving IPG after a disagreement about how the account should be run.

Nelson has overseen the business from the corporate level, directing the efforts of more than a dozen IPG agencies, while IPG CEO Michael Roth is said to want to give more power to the operating units [Adweek, Aug. 1].

“My reasons for leaving have to do with my belief that IPG does not sufficiently support the holding company model that we had pioneered and built,” Nelson said. “Since my leaving is an issue of principle, it was a non-negotiable situation where I was asking nothing of IPG going forward.”

Nelson was alluding to talk that IPG was still negotiating to keep him. He said he gave notice on June 15 and “because this is an issue of principle, there’s nothing to negotiate.”

In response, Roth said, “It’s ridiculous to suggest that Interpublic is not totally committed to the holding company model. In fact, we are successfully employing this coordinated approach to meet many of our clients’ needs. Our continued commitment to the model and our success with it are not related to the contract issues—including a responsible departure timeline—that we have been discussing with Bruce Nelson.”

Roth added, “It’s unfortunate that he has chosen to address this private matter through a public forum.”

Nelson led a team of IPG agencies that won the account in late 2002. Sixteen IPG shops now work on the business, though it is run by Nelson.

Revenue is estimated at $65 million.

Two weeks ago, the Charlotte, N.C. bank contacted rival holding companies WPP Group and Omnicom Group to ask them how they would handle the business. The contact came after Nelson, the main contact for BofA global marketing executive Catherine Bessant, signaled his desire to leave.

“There has been no negotiating of a contract since that anouncement,” Nelson said.