Alex Bogusky’s resignation from MDC Partners and its flagship agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky underscores one of the biggest challenges the Toronto-based holding company faces moving forward.
MDC’s business model of acquiring entrepreneurial companies is being tested as the founders of its early acquisitions now cash out. At the beginning of this year, MDC was due to pay the remaining earn-outs of $47 million in cash and stock to principals at its two largest agencies, Crispin and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners. KBS+P and Crispin together contribute about 35 percent of MDC’s revenue.
Bogusky’s exit from MDC, where he had become a creative figurehead at the holding company in January, follows the departure of Jon Bond in February, who left KBS+P after 23 years. Bond has since reemerged to bankroll new digital competitors to MDC companies.
The delicate art of institutionalizing agency culture at MDC agencies was made all too clear after the collapse of the holding company’s first U.S. acquisition, Margeotte Fertitta Powell which was folded into Kirshenbaum in 2007 after the departure of its founder, George Fertitta.
But Bogusky is MDC’s biggest star, earning him praise as Adweek’s Creative Director of the Decade last December. While he stepped back from a day-to-day creative role at his agency two years ago, his departure, from an image perspective, is a huge blow.
At present, visitors to MDC’s new home page are greeted with the 46-year-old hosting a video showing a new digital feature that allows “high-tech stalking” of MDC’s execs. (Bogusky kicks off the exercise by pointing to Boulder, Colo., on a map where he reports he is “rockin’ my new Birkenstocks at Sherpa’s.”)
MDC has been preparing for Bogusky’s possible departure from an agency he joined in 1989. In early 2008, he was named co-chair at Crispin, with agency execs Andrew Keller and Rob Reilly assuming top creative responsibility as co-ecds and becoming partners. After Bogusky assumed the top MDC creative role, he is said to have spent half his time on his outside projects, which have included writing books like 9-Inch Diet and Baked In.
In a statement, MDC Partners said: “Alex Bogusky has resigned from MDC Partners in order to focus his time and energy on pursuing a number of initiatives and issues apart from advertising and marketing that he feels strongly about. We have enjoyed a long and tremendously productive partnership over the past 10 years and have the utmost respect and admiration for Alex. We’re confident that many important causes will benefit from his passion and brilliance, and wish him the very best in all of his future endeavors.”