Maurice nets Saatchi clients

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Maurice Saatchi yesterday dealt a double blow to Saatchi & Saatchi by picking up the advertising accounts of Mirror Group, the media company, and Gallaher, the cigarette maker known for its Silk Cut brand.

The loss of the Gallaher account is also set to raise further questions about whether Charles Saatchi, brother of Maurice, will soon leave the agency that bears his name.

Charles Saatchi is viewed as the creative force behind the acclaimed Silk Cut advertisements. Gallaher, which generated around £850,000 of revenues a year from billings of almost £7m, is also the only account with which he was directly involved.

Peter Wilson, chairman of Gallaher, said: "Clients normally change agencies when they are dissatisfied with their advertising.

"On this occasion we are changing because we are delighted with our current advertising campaign which has been running for 11 years and we want it to continue.

"Since most of the key people who have so successfully managed our advertising are moving to the new agency, we have concluded that we too must move."

Gallaher is ultimately owned by American Brands.

Mirror Group, which spends £20m a year promoting the Daily and Sunday Mirror, will start to use Maurice Saatchi's new agency from 15 March. Mirror Group withdrew its account from Saatchi & Saatchi last month.

Despite yesterday's blows, however, the embattled Saatchi & Saatchi announced that it had won four new accounts with estimated annual billings of around £13m.

The accounts include Carlsberg-Tetley's XXXX Gold beer, Sketchley, Toyota, and Mirror Group Television.

Yesterday also saw a further escalation in the bitter fight between Maurice Saatchi and his former employers, who have accused him of selling shares just before Christmas 1993 without seeking the necessary permission of the board.

Maurice Saatchi said the company was wrong, because the 680,000 shares in question were owned by his brother, who by then had ceased to be a director and therefore did not need the board's seal of approval before he sold them.