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Peter King, former chairman and chief executive officer of a prominent local advertising agency, Wednesday announced plans to drop his leadership role and become a consultant for the firm.

"I'll continue to have an ongoing professional and economic relationship with the agency, but it won't be on a 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday basis," King, currently senior partner at LKW/Eric Mower and Associates Inc., said in an internal memorandum.

"I've been here for 40 years. It's time to change roles a little," King said Thursday, declining further comment.

King joined the 42-year-old firm, which nearly collapsed this year, in 1951. The firm has gone through several incarnations but was known as Levy, King & White Cos. Inc. until April, when it merged with the much-larger Eric Mower and Associates Inc. of Syracuse.

Levy, King & White had been ranked as the largest local ad firm in January 1989, reporting $48 million in billings and 97 local employees. However, a series of events, including the loss of a few long-time accounts, served to undermine the company's stability.

Its major client and former owner, Empire Federal Savings Bank of America, was taken over in January by the Resolution Trust Corp. and later sold off piecemeal. A cut in Empire's billings, as well as the steep price LKW paid in a 1989 buyback agreement with the bank, were the source of LKW's financial woes.

LKW also lost three executives and its entire public relations staff to a competing Buffalo agency. By April, the agency had lost about half its total staff and half its billings.

The merger has stabilized the agency, said Eric Mower, chief executive officer of the Syracuse and Buffalo operations.

The Buffalo operation's Main Street quarters will be sold at some time in the future, Mower said.

Mower also is negotiating to acquire other upstate firms, including Blair Advertising of Rochester, a division of the Omnicom Group, which is a holding company for several agencies nationwide.

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