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Pittard Sullivan shuts doors

No buyer found for flailing operation

HOLLYWOOD — No buyer, no business: Television branding and marketing giant Pittard Sullivan abruptly shut its doors last week after failing to find a suitor to take over the flailing operation.

Well known for its network identities, on-air promos and titles work for the major TV broadcast networks and cable outlets, the Culver City-based company pinkslipped its remaining 55 employees and closed its doors late Thursday after a takeover by Boston-based Internet consulting venture Viant fell through at the last minute.

Toppers Ed Sullivan and Billy Pittard told staffers they would no longer be paid or given severance packages and on Friday sent out a fax apologizing “for the hardship on each of you from the company’s inability to pay the amounts it owes you.”

That amount includes weeks of paychecks, as much as $20,000 in owed travel and business expenses per employee and thousands more in missing money from 401K plans.

Pittard Sullivan’s assets are being liquidated by City National Bank, which has a security interest in the venture. But Pittard Sullivan, in its fax to staffers, said, “It appears unlikely that the proceeds from the liquidation will be sufficient to pay City National all that it is owed.”

The move was a bit of a surprise, considering CEO-prexy Sullivan on Thursday said the company would not be shutting down but would “limp along with the limping economy” (Daily Variety, March 30). Hours later, Sullivan and Pittard gave its staff the bad news.

In the past two years, Pittard Sullivan has laid out prodigious amounts of cash to pay costly perks to attract and retain a team of expensive graphic designers, even in slow periods.

It also spent more than $1 million to build an unused soundstage and renovate office space, as well as spending millions aggressively trying to expand, launching failed commercial production, publishing, Internet and digital convergence divisions.

A souring advertising market and fleeing clients didn’t help. In the end, Pittard Sullivan found itself with few major clients after sales execs ankled last fall. While the company was completing work for DirecTV and OpenTV and contracts were on the table with HBO and AOL Time Warner, lucrative projects for major TV networks were going to smaller, cheaper competitors.

The company had offices in New York, London and Munich and at one time hired 200 people.

“They spent a lot of money and got big fast,” one former employee said. “They built a great company in a short time by taking risks. This time it didn’t work out. In the end, being the most recognized company in the field didn’t matter.”

Phone calls to Pittard Sullivan’s offices were not returned.

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