Kassan on Leave From Western

Holt Will Reassume Control of Media Giant for Temporary Period
LOS ANGELES–Michael Kassan, president of Western Initiative Media Worldwide, is taking an unexpected “leave of absence” from the Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned media management company, according to sources.
The circumstances surrounding Kassan’s hiatus were unclear on Friday, however sources said that Dennis Holt, founder, chairman and CEO of Western, is looking to get back in the driver’s seat at the company.
Holt will assume Kassan’s duties on an interim basis, sources said. Western told its staff last week that Kassan was taking a 30-day leave of absence. “This is absolutely stunning to me,” said an agency source.
The media-buying service has undergone a series of senior-level managerial shifts in recent months amid speculation that Holt was looking to take a more active role at the agency he sold to IPG in 1996. He recently repurchased Western’s interactive arm for an undisclosed sum, sources said.
Over the past year, Western and IPG have worked to boost the shop’s New York operations, although Kassan has repeatedly insisted that the center of operations will remain at headquarters in Los Angeles.
Mike Lotito, a former executive at sister IPG shop Ammirati Puris Lintas, joined Western as chief operating officer for North American operations earlier this month, based in its New York office.
Holt, Kassan and other Western executives could not be reached for comment at press time. IPG executives did not return calls.
Kassan joined what was then Western International Media in 1994 as its first chief operating officer and was elevated to president two years later. A former attorney and longtime acquaintance of Holt’s, Kassan played a key role in IPG’s purchase of Western and its subsequent merger with Initiative Media Worldwide, creating a $10 billion global giant [Adweek, Oct. 12]. As chairman and CEO, Holt has taken a less visible role.
Several sources have suggested that Holt, who has a reputation as a manager uninterested in sharing power, is tired of being on the sidelines and wants to resume direct management of the company.