Gillam dismissed by Unilever

Unilever has terminated Mike Gillam, its controversial head of media, after a lengthy investigation into claims that he made inappropriate business suggestions during a taped telephone conversation, Campaign can reveal.

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By  Tim Addington Published  June 18, 2006

Unilever has terminated Mike Gillam, its controversial head of media, after a lengthy investigation into claims that he made inappropriate business suggestions during a taped telephone conversation, Campaign can reveal. The FMCG giant has also dismissed Ian Macdonald, its creative services manager, following the probe. A statement from Jan Zijderveld, chairman at Unilever Middle East, said: “After an extensive internal investigation and a period of suspension, Unilever has dismissed two managers in the media department, Mike Gillam and Ian Macdonald, as of immediate effect. “The dismissal is for a breach of the Unilever Code of Business Principles. “The dismissal further underlines Unilever’s commitment to transparency both in the industry as well as within Unilever and all its operations without compromise.” Gillam was suspended in April this year after a conversation between him and a supplier was recorded and handed to Unilever. During the conversation, it is alleged that Gillam made an unethical suggestion. Campaign understands that Gillam tendered his resignation and left the Gulf following his suspension, but Zijderveld said Unilever did not accept it because the investigation was already underway. Zijderveld refused to comment further on the reasons behind the two men’s dismissals, but said that Unilever was committed to transparency. The company has yet to appointment replacements for either Gillam or Macdonald. Gillam could not be reached for comment. He is believed to be back in his native Britain. The report on the investigation’s findings, which was handled by independent consultancy the Control Risks Group which works with Unilever across the world, is several hundred pages long. Gillam, who was also secretary of the GCC Association of Advertisers, was one of the most outspoken campaigners for transparency in the Middle East marketing industry. Details of the telephone conversation remain a closely guarded secret. During an interview with Campaign he said that his demands for greater accountability had made him enemies in the media industry. “People told me to be very careful,” he said. He caused controversy after taking Unilever’s media planning and buying business in-house, away from incumbent MindShare. Gillam was one of the most colourful characters in Middle East media. He started his career at Polydor Records in London, after which he joined Britain’s Royal Airforce as a fighter pilot. He entered the advertising world with Saatchi & Saatchi in London. Spells at BMP, TBWA and Ogilvy Media Europe followed. He became a freelance media consultant and even wrote a column on advertising for the UK’s Financial Times before ending up at Unilever.

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