KSL Loses Two Top Execs

LOS ANGELES — Two top executives have resigned from KSL, the latest in a series of blows to the 20 year-old shop. In New York, Jamie Korsen, president of KSL’s Gotham office and head of its Drive-To-Site-Media interactive arm, has left in what Korsen termed “an amicable separation agreement.” Korsen added, “I’m looking for new challenges in a larger organization.”

In Southern California, Leslie Poliak, svp/managing director for the True North Communications media unit’s West Coast operations, has also left, but for the opposite reason: “I’m very entrepreneurial in spirit. I can’t picture myself in a massive corporation.” KSL’s future shape and structure is uncertain, given the pending acquisition of parent True North by The Interpublic Group of Cos.

The two execs join a long list of KSL staffers laid off or departing in the past year. The agency, hit hard by account losses (including the $100-million Revlon business earlier this year), the collapse of the dot.com boom and the softening economy, is down from well over 100 to about 40-plus employees across the country, and billings have shrunk from around $600 million to an estimated $250 million this year, according to sources.

The bright spot has been KSL’s California offices in L.A., San Francisco and newly opened Sacramento, which collectively account for $100 million-plus in billings. But the agency recently lost the estimated $10-15 million BrandSource appliance store chain, one of the prime accounts it picked up when it allied with Northern California agency Glass McClure at the end of last year [Adweek, Dec. 18]. BrandSource has returned to its previous media agency, Initiative Media here. Poliak, an eight-year veteran of KSL, was considered one of the shop’s most successful business development executives on the west coast.

Korsen, a respected young agency executive with experience on both buyer and seller sides, built Drive-To-Site into a $60 million-in-billings contributor to KSL’s bottom line. He also has strong relationships with several of the agencies KSL works with, such as Avrett, Free & Ginsberg. It is unclear how his departure will affect those partnerships.

Kal Liebowitz, KSL president, has talked to Initiative about the fate of his shop post-acquisition, sources said, adding that Liebowitz may be offered a top management post, perhaps running Initiative’s barter businesses. KSL billings and remaining staff would probably be absorbed into gestating IPG agency group The Partnership’s media operations, which will be run by Initiative Media worldwide CEO Lou Schultz.

Liebowitz was unavailable for comment.