IPG’s Mullen Plans HQ Move to Boston

BOSTON After 37 years in business, Mullen is finally preparing for a move into Boston.

The Interpublic Group agency said it would shift its 420-person headquarters from its Wenham, Mass., manor house location to downtown Boston by June 2009.

The agency will occupy 100,000 square feet—the top four floors of an 11-story structure—at 40 Broad St., which is being renamed The Mullen Building.

That space, near Faneuil Hall and the Rose Kennedy Greenway in an area targeted for re-invigoration, suits Mullen in terms of size and location moving forward as the firm strives to build “an agency where creative content, media expertise and technology all seamlessly work together,” said chief executive Joe Grimaldi.

The Wenham mansion and Mullen’s previous base of operations, an estate in nearby Beverly, Mass., played huge roles in building the shop’s mystique as a creatively driven, iconoclastic organization operating somewhat outside the mainstream of Boston business.

Could the impending move erase some of Mullen’s character and corporate culture?

“It will be difficult for them to sustain the corporate culture they have worked so hard to build,” said Carin Warner, a former longtime Mullen exec and now president of Warner Communications in Manchester, Mass. “It seems a shame to throw in the towel and conform to the pressure to be in the city. I always felt that their extraordinary location was a strong differentiator.”

Chris Colbert, CEO of Holland Mark here and a long-standing player in the local ad industry, sees the move as a positive one and said he would “look forward to their ability to more easily participate in the Boston business community.”

If nothing else, the change of scene could help the shop recruit new talent that would prefer a more central location than Mullen’s current digs.

The company has occupied the manor in Wenham, about 26 miles Northeast of Boston, for 20 years. That 50-acre wooded property at 36 Essex St., owned by agency founder Jim Mullen, is now for sale. Real-estate agents handling the property could not immediately be reached for comment, but sources said the manor could fetch in excess of $20 million.

In 1987, a suspicious fire destroyed Mullen’s Beverly offices and its subsequent HQ in Wenham was badly damaged just eight months later by another blaze. State investigators concluded that both fires likely resulted from arson, but no charges were ever filed. Jim Mullen later said his private investigators determined the fires had been accidental in origin. No staffers were injured in either blaze.

The shop, formed in 1970, currently has 700 employees nationwide and outposts in Wintson-Salem, N.C., Pittsburgh and Detroit. Mullen was acquired by IPG in 1999 and Jim Mullen ceded control of the shop to Grimaldi, long his No. 2, about a year later.

Major Mullen clients include Ask.com, General Motors, LendingTree, MassMutual, Orbitz.com, T.J. Maxx and XM Satellite Radio. The shop has long ranked among New England’s largest and most lauded ad firms.

Mullen’s IPG sibling Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos is planning a move in the spring, from the Hancock Tower in Boston’s Back Bay to 53 State Street downtown.