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While true north Communications, Chicago, and Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon

& Eckhardt, New York, were in the midst of their mating dance last year, the media world wondered what would happen to their respective operations, TN Media and BJK&E Media.

To the surprise of many, when True North finally bought Bozell at the end of the year in a stock swap worth $440 million, not only did the parties combine media operations under the TN moniker, but Mike Drexler, who had been president of BJK&E Media, became chairman of TN Media.


It's not often that the acquiree ends up calling the shots of he acquirer.

So how did that happen? Mr. Drexler, 59, is self-effacing and politic in his answer.

"I started in this business in 1959. Certainly there is a lot of experience and diversity in terms of the kinds of projects, assignments and accounts I've worked on, and there are a lot of relationships I've built over 40 years. I think all of that was factored in the decision," he says. "Certainly it wasn't necessarily the case of my being smarter than anybody else. When you've been around as long as I have, there are some advantages, and I think the powers that be here saw the unique value of that."

Mr. Drexler's experience in media includes 13 years at BJK&E; 13 years before that at legendary shop Doyle Dane Bernbach; and 14 years before that at Ogilvy & Mather, all in New York.

Eustis Walcott, VP-executive officer, corporate communications, at client Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., agrees that Mr. Drexler is great with relationships.

"He's very solid in that way. He's a very strong player in his own understated way. We've never had a problem that he couldn't resolve," he says.

While for the most part the merging of BJK&E Media and TN Media has gone well, there have been the inevitable strains and stresses of meshing two disparate organizations -- the internal politics and ensuing frustrations that seemingly can't be avoided.

Mr. Drexler puts it his own way: "Putting two companies [together] is difficult in and of itself. Sometimes it takes a little jolt for organizations to acknowledge some new thinking. But I think everybody feels good that their ideas are being considered under the new structure."

While he acknowledges that True North would like a second U.S. media network in the manner that other ad holding companies do, he says he has no doubts about the decision to combine TN Media and BJK&E Media. For one, merging them was fairly easy due to few client conflicts.

More importantly, Mr. Drexler says, "It's important to be big and to have the resources to have a large staff and research base. Only the major companies are going to be able to do that. You can't do that unless you're a top 10 company. That was part of the thinking of putting the two companies together."

Another priority is building TN Media in the global arena. TN has reportedly had discussions about merging with CIA in Europe, although Mr. Drexler declines to mention any companies he's talking to.

"What I will say is that we are going to be much more of a factor overseas than either company has been before, and I'm very involved in that process," says Mr. Drexler.

In the final analysis, he says, the client benefits.

"The first question clients ask [is] `What's in it for me?' That's the right question. The answer is a bigger, stronger, more resourceful media organization," he says. "That's the goal."

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