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Naked co-founder Mike Wilson suddenly departs

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Wilson: Out

Days after being fired by Labor over a comment for content controversy, Naked’s chairman Mike Wilson has abruptly left the company.

Although the announcement does not say Wilson was fired, he was in conversation with Mumbrella as early as this morning in a way which suggested he had expected to be in the role for some months to come.

Wilson’s departure leaves Adam Ferrier, the company’s global head of behavioural science, as the only remaining member of the triumvirate who founded the agency in Australia nearly a decade ago.

Neither Wilson or Ferrier could be reached for comment.

Tim Parker, formerly a senior executive with Clemenger Group, has been brought in to help run the agency while a replacement for Wilson is sought.

Although Naked was originally founded in London, the global agency is now Australian owned, as part of the Enero group, formerly Photon Group.

Mat Baxter, the third co-founder of the agency Australia, was ousted in similar circumstances in 2009, just after the agency went through a period of extreme controversy over the Witchery “man in the jacket” media hoax. Baxter is now the CEO of UM.

In the announcement, Naked quoted Wilson as saying: “After nine of the most amazing years of my life I’m leaving Naked. In the nine years we’ve had a number of achievements, winning a few Cannes Lions, several Agency of the Year awards, and loads of Effies. However, what I’m really most proud of is the culture we’ve created and the very talented group of people that make Naked what it is. I will leave with many fond memories of the good times, great work and business success we have created along the way.”

Ferrier’s statement said: “Mike’s a champion bloke, and will be missed immensely from the Naked family. He leaves with our full support. I’d also like to thank him for his hard work over the last nine years – he’s helped build a brand that is admired by clients and competitors alike.”

Last week Naked’s communications director Nick Kavanagh resigned as a result of the Labor furore. The row erupted when it emerged Naked has been working on a project targeting youth-focused websites for Labor. Emails emerged which suggested access to a video with PM Kevin Rudd had been linked to requests for free advertising and tailored editorial.

Yesterday, the president of the PR Institute of Australia Terri-Helen Gaynor reportedly labelled Naked’s actions “naive, stupid and conniving”.

Wilson’s departure will offer a challenge to the agency in holding on to its major client Coca-Cola, to whom Wilson was known to have a very close working relationship.

Wilson’s previous roles included GM of media agency MEC and a marketing role at Warner Music.

Tim Burrowes

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