McGee’s Symantec Group to Be a Unit Inside JWT

While they admit it’s unusual, those involved in the shift of Ogilvy & Mather chairman Jerry McGee and some staffers to sister L.A. agency J. Walter Thompson insist the move does not foreshadow a consolidation of the WPP Group shops here.

Even so, the creation of what amounts to a separate unit within JWT raises questions about the immediate and long-term future of Ogilvy’s L.A. office.

McGee and at least 10 others are making the move to accommodate Symantec, which is shifting its estimated $30 million account from Ogilvy to JWT [Adweek, Aug. 13]. Also making the six-mile trip down Wilshire Blvd. is Brad Fornaciari, Ogilvy senior partner/group account director. He will be succeeded at Ogilvy by Sam Hersh field, a veteran who has worked at BBDO, Publicis & Hal Riney and Grey.

McGee is expected to report to WPP managers in New York—not to Peter Stranger, JWT West president and CEO, who oversees the L.A. and San Francisco offices. “They will be a self-contained unit, but we will help them as much as possible,” said Stranger. “The addition of [Symantec] is a huge piece of business for us. It expands the role of JWT. ”

The loss of the Symantec account and staff stirred speculation that WPP might consolidate Ogilvy into JWT here, which it did this year in Atlanta. Ogilvy, which had billings of about $188 million last year, still handles toy maker Mattel. JWT’s two West Coast offices combined for $247 million in billings last year.

McGee was vacationing last week and unavailable for comment. WPP officials said there are no plans to fold Ogilvy into JWT here but declined further comment. Ogilvy executives declined comment.

Sources said McGee had aligned himself closely with Symantec and engineered a deal to move himself, his client and select staffers.

McGee’s role in day-to-day operations at Ogilvy had been scaled back since December 1999 when the office reshuffled management, naming Angus Fraser and Joe McDonagh co-presidents. McGee was then named to the newly created post of chairman and CEO.