NEW YORK: Financially troubled Cordiant Communications Group
suffered another blow last week when David Walke, CEO and senior
managing director of Morgen-Walke, announced he's leaving the firm to
pursue an "entrepreneurial dream" he has not disclosed.
Morgen-Walke, a 19-year-old stepchild in the Cordiant family, entered
the holding company world in January 2000 as the first US purchase by
Lighthouse Global Network. A little over six months later, Cordiant
bought Lighthouse for dollars 592 million in stock and debt.
On June 29, 2001, shares of Cordiant on the NYSE hit a new 52-week low
of dollars 12.70, down more than half from the stock's 52-week high of
dollars 28.375, achieved on June 30 of 2000.
Walke's departure from the company he co-founded follows the departure
of his former partner Lynn Morgen, who left the company four months
after Cordiant bought Lighthouse. With Walke leaving, 12-year firm
veteran and managing director Bob Jones will take over as CEO and senior
Jones said he plans no substantial changes for the agency. Walke will
stay in his current position until September 1; he will then continue in
a reduced role as a senior consultant.
Also defecting from the agency is MD Terence Rooney, who had been with
the firm for 18 years. Rooney will join M&R Capital as director of
marketing and communications. Principals Stacy Berns and Brian Maddox
will co-manage Rooney's corporate media relations practice.
Walke praised Cordiant as a "supportive" company. He dismissed concerns
that his leaving would hurt the firm.
"Despite my ultimate departure, the company is in excellent shape," said
Walke, citing new clients Dime Community Bankshares and AmeriSource.
Walke said that his new venture will not involve IR or Cordiant, and
that the holding-company structure did not offer enough flexibility to
pursue his dreams.
In PRWeek's 2001 agency rankings, Morgen-Walke fell two places from 19
to 21. With growth of 4% in US revenues in what was a blockbuster year
for the rest of the PR world, the agency's domestic gains were eight
points lower than the year before. Cordiant grew 3% in US revenues for
2000, more than 25 percentage points behind its closest competitor,