Has any top-level departure galvanized the profession as much as Michael Petruzzello's stunning ouster from his perch as Shandwick's US CEO?
Mere minutes after Petruzzello was shown the door - an execution performed with the surgical precision of a mob hit - rumors about the real reason behind his demise began to spread like brush fire. Top execs felt threatened by his success. He was impossible to work with and/or for. One source had him interested in designing Shandwick's global restructuring but inept at implementing it; another said he disagreed with the restructuring altogether.
Given the dizzying muddle of theories, it's surprising that nobody attempted to place him behind the grassy knoll.
In any case, there is one clear lesson to be learned: if, like Petruzzello, you've made your name as a salesman, you best not hit a dryspell.
For all of Shandwick's DC heavyweights - Don Riegle, Jody Powell, Dave Krawitz - the agency has recently seemed slow on its feet. 'Name the last big account that came in,' one Petruzzello critic challenged, pointing to Fleishman-Hillard's win of the AARP's dollars 10 million account and its likely triumph in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation derby. Factor in a few major client losses due to post-Cassidy conflicts of interest and perhaps the firm's Powers That Be felt that something, anything had to be done - even if it meant casting Petruzzello in the role of fall guy.
The reverberations from Petruzzello's departure will likely be felt for months, further destabilizing a staff still recovering from the Cassidy deal. Petruzzello loyalists are said to be questioning their allegiance to Shandwick, while other DC agencies are waiting, vulture-like, to swoop in on accounts he mothered. Alas, we shall see if Petruzzello's firing creates more problems than it solves.