Troubled Leap Sees Executives Leave

In Management: 1 Quits, 2 Laid Off; Stock Remains in Doldrums
CHICAGO–The uneven history of The Leap Partnership has taken another puzzling turn with the departure of three executives who had provided the agency with a more traditional organizational structure.
Managing director Erin Clark resigned last week, while media director Shane Ankeney and director of account planning Mark Thompson were laid off when their positions were eliminated, the agency said. Earlier this month, parent company The Leap Group reported Peter Vezmar, its chief financial officer, had resigned to pursue other opportunities.
Clark, a veteran account executive who has worked at J. Walter Thompson and Euro RSCG Tatham in Chicago, was named Leap’s first managing director in April 1997. Beth Pastor, a representative of The Leap Group here, declined to say why Clark left; Clark could not be contacted.
Financial concerns may have prompted the departure of Ankeney and Thompson, sources said. The company recorded a loss of $5.6 million, or 41 cents per share, for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31. Its stock is languishing at less than $2 per share; it started at $10 per share after The Leap Group’s initial public offering in 1996.
Ankeney and Thompson oversaw areas that were not part of the shop’s initial flat organizational structure, in which everyone held the title of creative partner. Pastor said there are no plans to replace the pair because Leap’s clients need no upper-level media or account planning.
“If you’re not using it, why have it?” Pastor said. “Most of the clients do their own media planning.” However, Pastor said, “If a client wants a full-service shop, they will get it somehow,” she said. “We’re not going [to say], ‘Here’s the creative, what you do with it is your business.'”
Chief executive officer Fred Smith and president Tom Sharbaugh did not return calls for comment.
The Leap Partnership’s clients include Anheuser-Busch (Michelob and Michelob Light) and Daewoo Motor America.