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Nationwide Hires MARTA’s Managing Director

MARTA veteran Bill Bursley has left the buying group for a position with rival organization Nationwide Marketing Group, effective immediately.

Bursley had served as managing director of MARTA since February, when he was promoted from general manager to succeed Dave Workman, who left the group after one month as president/CEO. Workman in turn succeeded Warren Mann, who left last December after six years as MARTA’s executive director.

He joins Nationwide as one of three field directors within the group, said Ed Kelly, president of the buying organization. “We are delighted to have Bill on our team. He is very experienced and knows the industry.”

Initially Bursley will learn programs and policies and “assist MARTA members who have joined us to integrate them into the operation. That’s phase one.”

Kelly said Bursley will be working with Nationwide’s “core members” that have annual sales between $10 million and $30 million and its “brand builders” who are retailers with over $30 million in annual sales. “We need more people to work with those larger members direct. We may rearrange the organization at some point.”

Bursley will also assist in implementing “new initiatives,” Kelly said, but the Nationwide president could not provide details as yet as what that might mean.

A search is underway for Bursley’s successor, said Bob Lawrence, executive director of AVB/Brand Source, the $5 billion buying organization that forged a strategic alliance with MARTA in January. Since then, the departure of a number of MARTA members has led to speculation regarding the group’s long-term status as a freestanding organization within AVB.

“There has been migration both ways,” said Lawrence, “and our intention is to keep MARTA as a strong and autonomous entity. We continue to look at it as we do any one of our 16 regions and five divisions.”

Kelly said 18 to 20 MARTA members have joined Nationwide since the spring and noted, “We recruit retailers all the time. We hope that others will realize our value proposition.” Lawrence said the figure, which includes former MARTA sub-group A-1, is technically lower since A-1 is comprised of 12 smaller dealers but was counted as a single member.

Lawrence expects that independent dealers will be changing group affiliations “in all directions throughout 2007” due to channel and organizational overlaps as buying groups consolidate. By way of example, he cited 20 members of Nationwide that also belong to the TRIB group, the industry’s largest rent-to-own buying organization, which formed a strategic alliance with AVB in April. — Additional reporting by Steve Smith