The abrupt change in leadership last month at the Direct Marketing Association took many members and observers by surprise, raising questions of possible internal conflict. But indications are that the resignation of CEO Larry Kimmel two years into a three-year contract was a “my job is done here” decision.
“Anyone who looks at the annual reports of DMA knows the accomplishments that transpired during my tenure,” Kimmel said. “I came into an organization struggling economically and, from a financial and member perspective, it's a very different place today.
“And when I look at myself, I have a career of moving quickly to catapult organizations,” he said. “And probably that is my sweet spot, identifying shortcomings and transforming the trajectory to move quickly.”
Kimmel, who was named CEO in August 2010, was succeeded by Linda Woolley, the DMA's exec VP-Washington operations. Her current title is acting CEO. There is no search committee in place to find a permanent CEO.
When Kimmel assumed his duties at the DMA in 2010, he was primarily charged with righting its financial ship, with his compensation based on performance benchmarks.
The organization's financial results, reported in its IRS form 990, show how battered the DMA was by the recession.
For its 2008-09 fiscal year, the DMA's revenue was $30.1 million, a 23.4% drop from the previous year, with a net loss of $4.0 million. The next year revenue continued to dwindle, declining 18.6% with a net loss of $1.3 million. Then-President-CEO John A. Greco resigned in January 2010.
For the year ended June 30, 2011, the situation stabilized under interim CEO Robert Allen, former president-CEO of cataloguer Vermont Country Store, and then Kimmel. Revenue grew 4.5%, to $25.6 million, and the DMA ended the year with a net surplus of $1.2 million.
Concurrent with announcing his resignation from the DMA, Kimmel said he had joined ad agency hawkeye, Dallas, as its New York-based executive director. It's a return to his ad agency roots; until 2008 Kimmel was chairman-CEO of agency G2 Direct & Digital and its earlier incarnation, Grey Direct.
Kimmel will continue to serve the DMA as “president emeritus,” a paid ambassador-at-large position.
Kimmel's resignation “wasn't sudden or unexpected,” said Matt Blumberg, DMA chairman and president of email delivery company Return Path. “The financial picture has stabilized over the last couple of years under Larry's leadership. The association is significantly smaller than it was, and that continues to present some challenges, but nothing sudden happened” that prompted Kimmel's resignation, he said.