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Author and Marketing Guru Sergio Zyman Will Continue to Run Firm

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NEW YORK ( -- MDC Partners, the advertising holding company that has been on a buying spree in the past year, has landed one of marketing’s biggest names: Sergio Zyman.
Photo: AP
Sergio Zyman has sold controlling interest in his company to MDC Partners for $63.8 million.

The former chief marketing officer of Coca-Cola Co., now chairman-CEO of marketing and strategy consulting firm Zyman Group, sold 61.6 % of his company to MDC for $63.8 million in a cash and stock deal, according to the companies.

Book author
In addition to his executive role at Zyman Group, Mr. Zyman is also the author of several well-known business books, including The End of Marketing As We Know It, The End of Advertising As We Know It and Renovate Before You Innovate.

Mr. Zyman, 59, and MDC Partners’ chairman-CEO, Miles Nadal, 47, met last summer through Jeff Hauswirth, a recruiter at executive search firm Spencer Stuart, which MDC hired to find candidates for MDC’s advisory board. Mr. Zyman joined the board, and over the months the Mexico-born Mr. Zyman and Mr. Nadal, a Canadian, discovered they shared many similarities: “Passion, energy, a commitment to get it done,” Mr. Nadal said.

$65 million in revenues
Zyman Group, which opened in 1999 “with me, a bag and a table,” Mr. Zyman said, employs 129 people and had revenues in 2004 of $65 million. MDC’s investment was appealing, Mr. Zyman said, “because it is a much more strategic thing than someone just buying your revenue.” He said he has spoken to numerous holding companies over the years. “With MDC, we’ll remain independent, but we’ll be able to grow our footprint.”

Atlanta-based Zyman Group three years ago opened an office in Chicago and in the past six months it has expanded to London and Mexico City. “We think Latin America, Brazil, Mexico and Europe are markets where we can make money,” Mr. Zyman said.

Client roster
The agency's client roster is worldwide, including Televisa in Mexico, Medtronic in Germany, and Aspen Skiing Co. in the U.S. For the latter, Zyman repositioned the company’s marketing approach from an advertising-centric model aimed at a wide swath of people to a highly segmented approach, implemented across many of the company’s divisions -- not within marketing alone -- to reach the most economically viable audience.

Mr. Nadal, MDC’s founder and architect of the company’s strategy to create a newfangled holding company, believes Zyman’s management and portfolio will benefit MDC because “they’ve got marketing practitioners, not theorists, who’ve worked at corporations around they world; they’ve got tremendous track records. We wanted a dynamic capability that would help us deliver executable strategies.”

Mr. Zyman remains as chairman-CEO of Zyman Group and becomes the second-largest shareholder in MDC Partners, behind Mr. Nadal. In 2004, MDC bought stakes in 12 advertising and marketing firms, including Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, and two Toronto firms, Zig and Bruce Mau Design.

Earnings delays
Uncertainties about MDC’s accounting resurfaced last week when the company delayed for the second time the release of results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2004, the second round of financial filing delays in the past 12 months. Company management attributed the delays to more stringent reporting requirements that resulted from MDC, which is traded on both Toronto and Nasdaq exchanges, changing its status from foreign issuer to a U.S. registrant.

MDC stock closed at $10 on Friday, down 39% from its 52-week high of $16.55.

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