Just three months after he was fired from his post as chairman and chief executive of J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, Joseph W. O'Donnell has taken on the same post at a much smaller New York agency, William Esty Co.

He replaces Gordon Bushell, 53, who will become the agency's chairman emeritus, and who will continue to oversee the firm's creative department. Esty--a subsidiary of the British ad giant, Saatchi & Saatchi Ltd.--had billings of $450 million in 1986.

O'Donnell, 44, was at work on Tuesday, but unavailable for comment. "He wants to wait a few days, until things settle down," said a company spokesman.

Things, however, will not likely be soon settled at Esty, whose clients include Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A., and Mastercard International. Agency conflicts that arose after the merger with Saatchi last year have cost the company millions of dollars in billings.

Ad agency executives say that Esty is counting on O'Donnell to bring stability to the agency. And the company also hopes that O'Donnell's experience as former head of Thompson's Ford Motor account will convince Nissan executives that Esty is serious about servicing the U.S. arm of the Japanese auto maker.

O'Donnell's presence "will be a great asset to both current and future clients," said Bushell.

O'Donnell was fired from Thompson in January after an unsuccessful attempt to take the agency private through a leveraged buyout and bypass Don Johnston, chairman and chief executive of the agency's parent company, JWT Group.

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