Saatchi’s Gilbert New York Bound

Scott Gilbert, the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi’s office in Torrance, Calif., said he will move to the agency’s New York headquarters where he will serve as a managing partner beginning May 1. Gilbert, who has been with Saatchi for 23 years, said he is making the move at the request of agency’s world wide CEO Kevin Roberts. The cross country shift is also tied to a restructuring of Saatchi’s top management that will see three executive relinquish their managing partnership.

Also Roberts will take on the added role of chairman and wil take on “a more prominent role” in the New York office.

A native of Long Beach, NY, Gilbert, 49, said he was enthusiastic about returning to the east coast after 17 years in Southern California. “It wasn’t my idea but I’m thrilled with the concept,” he said. “He wants me to help add some buzz for the agency.”

A Saatchi representative said there has been no decision on who will succeed Gilbert as CEO and added that senior management would be looking at candidates inside and out side the company. A replacement will be in place before he leaves, the rep said.

In New York, Gilbert will become one of four managing partners along with Todd Seisser, Mike Burns and Tom Lom, sources said. At the same time three executive who now serve as managing partners will relinquish that role. They are Mike Popernik, Tim Love and Keith Bunnell.

The office in Torrance has a staff of about 300 and is focused primarily on Toyota Motor Sales USA, which is the largest client in the Saatchi network. During his tenure on the West Coast, Gilbert helped established a separate agency in 1987 to handle Toyota luxury car Lexus. Gilbert served as chief executive officer at that unit, Team One, for its first six years.

The partnership structure that Gilbert will be joining has been in place at the Saatchi since December 2000, following the exits of North American chairman and CEO Jennifer Laing and vice chairman Tony Dalton. Originally, there were eight managing partners: Julie Bauer, Tod Seisser, Mike Popernik, Keith Bunnell, Mike Burns, Tom Lom, Tim Love and Marie McNeely.

At the time, Bauer was president of Saatchi’s San Francisco office. That office closed in mid-2001 and Bauer worked briefly in New York before shifting to Saatchi’s London operation, thereby relieving her of her managing partner duties.

McNeely, the global equity director on Tide, relinquished her partner responsibilities in late 2001, to focus exclusively on the global brand.