True North moves free CEO to focus on int'l

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True North Communications has taken major steps toward securing its future, promoting two senior executives and giving Chairman-CEO Bruce Mason more room to focus on international growth.

The Chicago holding company's stock (up 30% in the past year) has been outperformed by competitor Omnicom Group (up 60%) largely because of uncertainties about True North's international network--particularly its delay in completing a significant acquisition and its troubled global alliance with Publicis, which expired last month.

With the objective of ending those uncertainties, Mr. Mason has given his other job, chairman-CEO of Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising, to Brendan Ryan, who was chairman-CEO of FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York.


Also, Mr. Mason moved Jack Balousek from president-chief operating officer of FCB to the new post of chairman-CEO at TN Technologies. Mr. Balousek takes over as True North explores an initial public offering for its technologies unit.

Mr. Mason, 56, said after True North was formed last year that he planned on turning over the reins of FCB so he could focus on the international network.

The 52-year-old Mr. Ryan, since taking the helm of FCB/Leber Katz in 1991, has more than doubled billings to $1.1 billion from $450 million, even though during this time the agency has lost half its clients.


The priority for FCB is better, more consistent creative to go with its status as the largest U.S. ad agency, Mr. Mason said.

In 1994, FCB ranked No. 1 in U.S. billings with $2.6 billion, though it only ranked seventh in gross income, at $240 million.

"I think one of the great missed opportunities is that we never bring together the collective muscle of all the offices for one client. We do it in media but not in creative. I'm not sure how to do it, but we've got to try," Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Ryan's more notable successes at FCB/Leber Katz include turning it into AT&T Corp.'s lead agency and the successful launch of Nabisco's SnackWell's cookies and crackers.

Mr. Ryan said he's not ready to announce his successor in New York, but the likely candidate is Charles Taney, currently president of the office and leader of the AT&T account.

Copyright March 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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