Layoffs, Consolidation at Western

Efficiencies Cited by Kassan, Who Is Eyeing Lotito for Senior Post
LOS ANGELES–Western Initiative Media Worldwide has handed out pink slips to more than 30 employees over the past few weeks as part of a restructuring, and is in talks to hire a senior executive under president Michael Kassan.
Included in the layoffs were senior level executives at the Los Angeles headquarters, such as executive vice president and marketing director Emil Iannaccone and senior vice president, account services David Bryman.
John Vrba, the Orange County chief for 13 years, was also axed.
The cuts were made for efficiencies, said Kassan, who noted that Western has implemented technological and other tactical methods to streamline its business.
He also said that Western had staffed up for the Y2K conversion, and that task was complete.
It is not the first time Western has closed offices. Two years ago, the company closed its St. Louis, Springfield, Mo., Palm Springs, Calif., and Colorado Springs offices in order to concentrate the company’s resources in larger regional hubs.
Kassan noted that the number of layoffs as a percentage of total staff (3,300) amounted to less than 1 percent.
“It’s not ‘Sunday, bloody Sunday,’ but we have done a reorganization in our account
services and other areas,” Kassan said. “We’re looking to streamline our process and continue to consolidate some of our smaller offices such as Cincinnati into Cleveland and Chicago.”
In addition to Cincinnati, Western has closed its Washington, D.C., Kansas City and Orange County, Calif., units, and downsized Seattle, San Francisco and Miami. Miami’s account services staff was let go and that business consolidated at Atlanta.
Several employees in recent weeks have resigned in frustration with the cutbacks, sources said. Some former staffers said that it appears that Los Angeles-based Western is shifting its focus to New York, where its parent, the Interpublic Group of Cos. is based, and point to the recent move of strategic planning and research head Cheryl Idell to New York, as an example.
Separately, Kassan is said to be talking to candidates about a senior post beneath him, sources said. The leading candidate is Mike Lotito, former general manager of technology at sister IPG agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, sources said.
Lotito had been chief media officer at APL before he became director of client services. He then became the technology chief before leaving the shop earlier this year. Lotito did not return calls; Kassan declined
comment. –with John Consoli