The task of rebuilding Saatchi and Saatchi's depleted General Mills advertising account team is moving apace.

The Publicis-owned, New York-headquartered, agency which lost seventeen of its GM people last month, has appointed Joe Belmonte as evp and senior group account director on the $550 million (€413m, £286m) business. Seven remaining account team members have been promoted.

Belmonte, who has run New York consultancy Aprais for the past year, has extensive brand experience including a stint twenty years ago at Interpublic's Campbell Mithun, a General Mills roster shop.

Says Saatchi's ceo, Mary Baglivo: "Joe's experience is a perfect match for General Mills and Saatchi's DNA. He's passionate, competitive and restless."

The exodus of the 'Saatchi 17' followed the departure of former worldwide account director Mike Burns, who is now being sued by his erstwhile employer [WAMN: 15-Mar-05].

After some confusion over their destination and that of the General Mills account, the seventeen defectors were hired by IPG to work at a standalone unit pitching for youth, family, health and wellness brands.

General Mills, which makes brands such as Cheerios cereals and Yoplait yogurts, has apparently reassured Saatchi the business is safe. Chief marketing officer Mark Addicks says soothingly: "They are attracting very talented people to our account, both from within Saatchi and outside the agency.

"The transition has been quite seamless. We are finding fresh ways to continue our existing campaigns and we have great new work in development. We continue to be very pleased with Saatchi's work on our behalf."

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff