Nick Brien to Be Named CEO of McCann Worldgroup

Will Succeed CEO John Dooner, Who Will Serve as Chairman

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Nick Brien tomorrow will be named CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' biggest agency network, McCann Worldgroup, ending years of speculation about who would succeed John Dooner, who is expected to serve as chairman.

Nick Brien
Nick Brien
Mr. Brien is currently worldwide CEO of Mediabrands, an umbrella organization for Interpublic's media assets, which include Initiative, Universal McCann and Magna Global. Executives familiar with the matter said the new and temporary management structure at Mediabrands will be made up of a group of individuals including Matt Seiler, Global CEO of Universal McCann; Richard Beaven, global CEO of Initiative; Matt Freeman, CEO of Mediabrands Ventures; and Tara Comonte, chief operating officer/chief financial officer of Mediabrands.

A spokeswoman for McCann declined to comment, and representatives for Interpublic did not immediately return requests for comment. Mediabrands couldn't be reached for comment.

Mr. Dooner, now 61, was named CEO of Interpublic in December 2000. But after three years marked by a financial restatement debacle and criticism from the analyst community that he was too inexperienced for the role, he stepped back down and headed back to the agency network from which he came.

Mr. Dooner in 2007 said he planned to leave the agency in about five years, but many insiders predicted that day would come sooner. The industry has speculated for years about who would fill his shoes, and candidates for the spot have included McCann Worldgroup COO Eric Keshin and Brett Gosper, CEO of McCann's Europe, Middle East and African operations.

Heir-apparent
In November, Advertising Age reported that talk among senior insiders at Interpublic was that Mr. Brien had emerged as heir-apparent, benefiting from not being a McCann Erickson insider.

McCann, which is responsible for nearly 40% of Interpublic's revenue, has suffered the loss of top accounts including those of Microsoft and Pfizer. It's in need of an overhaul and could get what it needs with Mr. Brien, who is seen by some as a turnaround artist. He earned that reputation as global CEO of Worldgroup's media agency, Universal McCann, where he restocked the agency with talent and pulled off a coup, retaining Johnson & Johnson's estimated $3 billion account through the creation of a new agency model for the client. In July of 2008 Mr. Brien was named CEO of Mediabrands.

Mr. Brien will, in his new role, will be under pressure to quickly make McCann competitive in the rapidly changing ad world, which means stepping up of digital capabilities and a lot of innovation. There are signs that some of that is under way at the shop already this year, including a new unit being launched called Split.

It's unclear how long Mr. Dooner will remain chairman, but he can certainly afford to retire. Based on a 2009 proxy statement, if he parts with Interpublic for any reason, the holding company is due to pay up $2.5 million per year for 15 years.

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