The celebration was lively at the Saatchi Gallery on the evening of
19 June 1996 as more than 1,200 individuals gathered on a spectacularly
beautiful night to celebrate M&C Saatchi’s first birthday.
Waiters generously poured Bouvet champagne, Foster’s lager, Hildon
mineral soda and Sub, an alcoholic soda. Tray upon tray of chicken legs,
cold lamb chops, shrimp, and egg rolls spilled out of a makeshift
It was quite a party, with guests including John Major as well as
Auberon Waugh, Evelyn de Rothschild and members of Major’s cabinet.
In reality, there was much to celebrate: after only one year M&C Saatchi
boasted worldwide billings of pounds 250 million with a total of 250
employees in offices in London, Hong Kong, New York, Sydney, Singapore,
Dubai and Auckland.
Not all was smooth at the self-confident agency, however. Unknown to
most people, Maurice quietly made a rare trip to the US on 21 May 1996,
specifically to Cincinnati and his former client, Procter and
Maurice’s most stable contact at the giant company, Ed Artzt, had
retired as chairman and now he was immersed in untested waters. The
sojourn was hardly productive and confirmed Saatchi’s worst fears: that
there would be no role for M&C Saatchi to play in P&G’s advertising
strategy. A P&G senior executive told him that it would do nothing that
would harm Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, which remained a P&G
M&C Saatchi’s growth in the US, arguably the most important region for
worldwide acceptance, was, at best, slow. It wasn’t until March 1996
that its US operation finally won a piece of business: Packard Bell, a
company whose advertising had been dormant prior to naming M&C
Cynics from Cordiant and Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising whispered that
the only reason the new Saatchi agency won the account was because, in
the UK, Packard Bell is distributed by Dixons, the giant retail chain
whose advertising is done by M&C Saatchi.
An odd and somewhat psychologically unhealthy bond remained between
Cordiant and M&C Saatchi, though Cordiant executives liked to stress
that they had gone on with their lives.
Nevertheless, on 5 May 1996, a bizarre dinner took place between Bill
Muirhead (an M&C Saatchi partner) and David Herro (the US fund manager
who led the shareholder revolt against Maurice).
Muirhead had never met nor spoken with Herro and he wanted to see what
made the Chicago money manager tick. Both individuals came away from the
lengthy meal more convinced than ever that the other was wrong.
Muirhead more than once thanked Herro for creating the situation that
made him a richer man at M&C Saatchi than he ever was at Saatchi and
Saatchi Advertising. Although no-one believed that, Muirhead insisted it
Herro warned Muirhead to watch himself because he was, after all, in
business with Maurice Saatchi. Muirhead later described Herro as ’a kind
of Billy Graham who believes he is on a crusade’.
For his part, Herro was amused by the whole incident. The following
evening, he, Tim Jackson (Cordiant’s director of investor relations) and
Alan Bishop (then chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi in North
America) had a good chuckle over the Muirhead dinner.
But Cordiant couldn’t walk away from Maurice either. An individual with
ties to Cordiant compiled estimates of Maurice’s borrowings - in other
words, how much he was in debt - dating back to 1987, when Maurice was
estimated to have debts of pounds 7.3 million.
Maurice’s finances grew so bad that in 1991 he was forced by his banks
to sell a glorious Italianate mansion, Lees House. The initial asking
price was pounds 5.75 million; it finally sold for pounds 2.5
By the end of 1995, Maurice was estimated to have debts of pounds 4.1
million; there were whispers that Charles Saatchi actually owned Old
Hall, Maurice’s estate in Sussex, or at least it was Charles who
financed the purchase.
But others with knowledge of the brothers said that was simply
And another with a Cordiant connection said in July 1996 that Maurice
sold three of his Bentleys merely to finance the purchase of a newer
Bentley, a fact confirmed by a partner in M&C Saatchi.
Appearances are everything to Maurice and now that he had a new agency,
he needed to show everything was right within his world.
Demons still plagued him, however. Either he couldn’t believe the truth
or he chose to ignore it: that his downfall was cleverly orchestrated
not by a peer, which is what he considered Robert Louis-Dreyfus, but by
individuals he felt were below him and who, therefore, he did not take
These included Suzanna Taverne (recruited by Maurice to construct a
strategic review of the Saatchi group), Ted Levitt (a group board
member), the group corporate secretary, Graham Howell, and Herro.
As one person with intimate knowledge of the events leading to Maurice’s
ousting said in June 1996: ’Suzanna and Ted supplied the bullets that
Herro shot.’ Herro would not be specific, but one person close to him
said: ’Don’t underestimate what he got from Howell.’ Howell was hired by
Saatchi and Saatchi plc in 1994, shortly after he resigned as director
of legal and personnel services at London Weekend Television. He was
unimpressed with Maurice’s lack of concern toward shareholders, which
was in sharp contrast to his former employer.
However, Maurice set past troubles aside as M&C Saatchi reached its
first birthday and prepared to move out of its temporary headquarters in
Marylebone Lane. The estimated cost to M&C Saatchi to renovate its new
Golden Square offices: pounds 3.5 million. Cynics said that the agency
was erecting an 80s building in the 90s.
Such criticism, as usual, fell on Maurice’s deaf ears. Anyone who
wondered whether he had learned anything from the lesson of his former
company had meted out should note that M&C Saatchi, in late 1996, had no
plans to go public. Instead, it would remain a private company, far from
the scrutiny of meddling shareholders.
On 21 August 1996, Maurice became Lord Saatchi. John Major had rewarded
him for almost two decades of loyal service to the Conservatives with a
Instantly, his critics seized upon the honour to ridicule Maurice. A
Labour spokesman suggested that he be dubbed ’lord of the lies’.
If such sniping hurt Lord Saatchi, he didn’t show it. He had risen to a
status reserved in the UK for only a handful. Along the way, he created
hundreds of jobs and made more than one employee, including himself, of
course, quite rich.
He had got away with a tremendous amount and had almost everything he
wanted, with one critical exception.
Cordiant - and Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising - survived.
Taken from ’Conflicting Accounts: The Creation and Crash of the Saatchi
and Saatchi Advertising Empire’, by Kevin Goldman, which was published
in the US by Simon and Schuster last week and will be on sale in the UK