IPG Picks Coughlin as COO

NEW YORK The Interpublic Group has found its COO: Chris Coughlin, CFO at Pharmacia and a former top executive at Nabisco.

The hiring comes a day before IPG is to announce earnings for the first quarter of 2003. According to Thomson Financial Network, IPG earnings are estimated to be down 61.1 percent from the year-ago quarter, ended March 31. The average estimate among 11 analysts, Thomson noted, is 7 cents a share (with low estimate at 4 cents and high at 10 cents.) The year-ago earnings per share was 18 cents a share. First-quarter revenue is estimated to be off 5.2 percent, to $1.3 billion from $1.4 billion in the comparable period in 2002. In addition, sources said that IPG may also announce completion of a deal to sell research unit NFO tomorrow.

The six-month search for a COO was launched in late 2002 amidst financial crises that included several earnings restatements and an SEC inquiry, and led in part to the departure on Feb. 27 of chairman and CEO John Dooner. Dooner returned to IPG’s McCann WorldGroup and was replaced at the IPG helm by vice chairman David Bell. IPG looked at candidates within and outside of the advertising industry before choosing Coughlin, including a top-level Procter & Gamble executive, sources said.