The 46-year-old likes to quote his business idol, Warren Buffett, to describe his strategy for MDC: "The short term is a voting machine, the long term is a weighing machine." He has collected stakes in a number of companies with the aim of capitalizing on what he calls a lack of creativity at the penny-pinching agencies that belong to rival holding companies.
This former check-and-stamp-printing business is on its way to becoming a pure marketing focused holding company. According to Mr. Nadal, MDC now has up to $200 million to spend on further acquisitions, up from $100 million just earlier this year. The company acquires stakes in agencies by combining cash, stock and earn-out incentives.
"We're going to expand our ambitions," he said. "We're looking at regional creative agencies, multicultural agencies, interactive shops and we're looking at launching a network in the public relations, corporate communications and public affairs field. You will see us expand aggressively in a number of firms." PR, he believes, is an area that's been neglected and thinks media agencies have suffered the same lack of ingenuity as the creative business.
Just last month, MDC Partners added stakes in Mono, formed by two former Fallon creatives and Canadian interactive shop Henderson Bas. Earlier in the year MDC took positions in Cliff Freeman & Partners and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, both based in New York. The company already counts Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, Margeotes & Fertitta, New York, and Colle & McVoy, Minneapolis, as part of its portfolio.
Mr. Nadal works closely with Chuck Porter, MDC's chief strategist (Mr. Porter also runs Crispin Porter). Mr. Porter said the two are on the phone three times a day, discussing potential opportunities. "When we first met Miles, we were very interested because he was obviously a bright guy and fast learner and he listened a lot. He wasn't there to tell me anything and he asked, `How would you guys see a deal and what do you want to happen?"'
MDC's Crispin purchase has enabled it to make great strides. He predicts that within five years it will be a billion-dollar business (by comparison, Omnicom Group had 2003 revenues of $8.6 billion). That's fighting talk from an executive who has seen the bottom of the pit and is still dealing with a business press in Canada that won't let him forget it.
"It was a wild ride," said Neal Goldman, founder of Goldman Capital Management, a New York based investment vehicle. "I invested in his company five years ago. ... He got leveraged to the eyeballs and the stock tumbled when people got concerned."
When asked why he has stuck with the company, he responds, "If you've picked yourself up off the floor you can bet on being a big winner. We are still in the bottom of the third inning [with MDC]. Most entrepreneurs have a great difficulty listening. The key is listening to people who might prevent you from falling on your face. ... He listens and that's a big difference."
Mr. Nadal, said to be worth in excess of $100 million, founded the company in Toronto in 1980 when it consisted of little more than a typesetting business Pro Type. He renamed the company MDC, Multi Discipline Communications, after acquiring a small design shop. The company went public in 1987 and then had serious debt problems. Now, out of the woods, the company counts ten ad agencies among its partner ranks.
When asked how he managed to climb his way up from his job as a freelance photographer, Mr. Nadal responds that he asked a business executive how he became successful and the person told him to jump on opportunity. "I just keep jumping," he said.
Name: Miles Nadal
Now: Chairman-CEO, MDC Partners, Toronto
Who: This former freelance photographer, who now lives in the Bahamas, built MDC into a conglomerate on the back of check and stamp printing businesses. The company will soon be a pure marketing play.
Challenge: "We are a growth company. Our objective is to build the most creative institution in the marketplace."