Bcom3 Group’s Chicago unit Leo Burnett USA is to lay-off some two hundred - or 9% - of its estimated 2,145 staff, the largest single axing in the agency’s history.

Casualties took little comfort from the reason underlying their redundancy: Bcom3’s plan to go for an IPO later this year or next. Despite strong revenue growth and new business gains during the past twelve months, they are disposable assets.

Burnett USA chief executive Brad Brinegar believes the culling of his staff will facilitate Bcom3’s "getting ahead of the curve and making our organization more adept at competing in a dynamic marketplace."

Although the Chicago office will bear the brunt of the cuts, Brinegar and Leo Burnett Worldwide president Bob Brennan will today whistle-stop four other Burnett sites in an effort to allay employees’ concerns.

They could find this an uphill task - as the current round of layoffs may not be the last. Says Brennan: "I never want to do this again. We never want to do this again, but we can't guarantee we won't."

News sources: New York Times; Advertising Age - Daily Deadline