IPG Stockholders Nix Proposals

NEW YORK Interpublic Group shareholders today rejected a proposal to split the roles of chairman and CEO and another for investors holding at least 10 percent of the company’s outstanding common shares to call special meetings.

IPG had urged shareholders to oppose each measure.

The special meeting proposal, however, garnered support from 43 percent of those who voted—a relatively strong showing for a first-time proposal.

About 56 percent of the voters opposed it and 1 percent abstained. The vote against separating chairman and CEO—titles now held by Michael Roth—was more lopsided, with 87 percent opposing it, 11 percent supporting it and the rest abstaining. The same proposal was rejected by a greater margin last year (92 percent against, 7 percent for, 1 percent abstaining).

Stockholders also re-elected all nine board directors for another year and reappointed longtime outside auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers during a calm, uncontentious annual meeting. About 80 people attended the 42-minute gathering, which took place at the Museum of Television & Radio in midtown Manhattan.

Ken Steiner, the Great Neck, N.Y., shareholder who put forth the special meeting and chairman/CEO resolutions on behalf of himself and his father, William, respectively, argued that the measures would breed more accountability at IPG, whose share price, at less than $12 yesterday, badly trails those of competitors such as Omnicom Group and WPP Group.

After the meeting, Steiner said of the special meeting results: “If you can squeeze out over 40 percent, that’s a great vote.” Noting that other corporations had adopted similar measures, he added: “Companies are doing it. And this company just really needs a kick in the ass.”

Steiner owns about 2,000 shares of IPG stock, and his father, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., about 3,000 shares, the younger Steiner said.

Voter participation continued to be high this year, with 81 percent of those eligible to vote casting ballots. Last year, about 88 percent of the eligible pool voted.

The bulk of the meeting revolved around a presentation by Roth, who used slides and video to outline the challenges facing the company and highlight recent work.

Roth, in a shorter version of a speech he gave at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Management Conference last month, said integration, innovation, measuring effectiveness, and investing in talent and new communications platforms were among the keys to succeeding in the marketplace.