Burson snags tech vet away from CDB

NEW YORK: After less than a year at the helm of Creamer Dickson Basford's technology practice, SVP Michele Clarke has jumped ship to take a managing director position at Burson-Marsteller.

NEW YORK: After less than a year at the helm of Creamer Dickson Basford's technology practice, SVP Michele Clarke has jumped ship to take a managing director position at Burson-Marsteller.

CDB chairman and CEO Darryl Salerno brought Clarke on board last fall to take the firm's technology practice from the shadows into the limelight.

But her departure?along with the firing of VP/group director Judy Kahn and account director Sharon Fenster?casts doubt upon the firm's ability to reach that upper echelon, at least in the near future.

Rich Layne, who was working part time as a senior counselor, will now head the New York-based technology practice full-time. Salerno said Clarke's departure will not stall CDB's plans to purchase a Silicon Valley boutique firm (PRWeek, May 31), a deal that should close in the next two months.

Since Clarke's arrival in September, the practice has picked up more than dollars 1 million in new business from clients such as Cahners Electronic Media, Microcom Technolo-gies, Comcast Online and Outreach Technologies. Clarke was also busy beefing up staff, bringing Kahn, Layne and Fenster on board, and played a key role in CDB's pending hi-tech acquisition.

Even so, Salerno said Clarke's departure was anticipated, and dismissed it as a non-issue: 'Michele will probably be a good fit for Burson's culture, but was not a good fit for ours. Her resignation clears the path for our plans to reorganize the practice.' According to Clarke, Burson presented her with an outstanding opportunity to build a premier tech practice: 'BM has a lot up its sleeve. These guys get it.'

BM has experienced solid growth in the area, generating dollars 11.7 million in hi-tech revenue last year, up 30% from dollars 9 million in 1997. Recently, it picked up Hewlett-Packard's spinoff 'Newco' company, a win that convinced Clarke that BM's technology practice was for real.

Clarke will report to Bill Fasig, chairman of BM's technology practice.

'She's a great strategic find for us, and a known commodity,' Fasig said.

Although based in New York, she will oversee staff in Washington, DC, Boston, and Chicago as BM's East Coast market leader. In addition to seeking new business, she will serve as senior counselor for key clients like Sun Microsystems and Iridium.

A veteran of the electronics, computer and communications industries, Clarke spent 13 years as a hi-tech-journalist before entering PR in 1995.

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