Publicis drops SFR for France Telecom

Publicis Groupe has pulled out of a repitch for its SFR telecoms account, to safeguard its multimillion-pound France Telecom business in the wake of the resignations of three Publicis managers.

Confirming the withdrawal of Publicis Conseil from the contest, Maurice Levy, the group chairman, said it had been his personal decision.

The move gives Levy the option of switching France Telecom, currently handled by its Marcel hotshop, into Publicis Conseil. Last week, Frederic Raillard and Farid Mokart, Marcel's founders, said they were quitting to launch a start-up with the Publicis Conseil chairman, Christophe Lambert.

Meanwhile, Levy is said to be debating whether or not to close the 70-strong Marcel, set up only 17 months ago, and fold it into Publicis Conseil.

Although France Telecom dominates Marcel's client list, the agency also handles Coca-Cola Blak in France and some assignments for Nestle.

A Publicis Groupe spokeswoman insisted there was no plan to close Marcel, and that the new Publicis network chiefs, Olivier Fleurot and Richard Pinder, were currently looking for replacements for Fred and Farid.

World 2, page 17; Leader, page 22.