MFP’s Fertitta Hands Over the Reins

NEW YORK George Fertitta has relinquished his post as CEO of MDC Partners’ Margeotes Fertitta Powell, which he has led for nearly 33 years, to become chairman, the agency said.

Day-to-day management of the New York shop has passed to Michael Kantrow, hired last year as agency president. He now assumes the CEO title at MFP.

Fertitta, 59, who sold 80 percent of his company to MDC in 1998, divested himself of his remaining shares last year. He officially stepped down as of Jan. 1.

“I had the ability to sell the remaining interest as early as 2003, but I agreed to stay on for two more years,” said Fertitta. “I felt it was time to have new management in place.”

Kantrow, 38, who came on board in January 2005, will lead the agency alongside Neil Powell, 38, chief creative officer. Kantrow had been a managing director and head of client services at Euro RSCG and was introduced to Fertitta by MDC’s Chuck Porter.

At the time, Fertitta said he hoped Kantrow would help bring in accounts worth $50 million or more. The agency, however, has not yet landed accounts of that size. Instead, the shop last year won the estimated $15 million Perry Ellis account and assignments from Samsung, Vitamin Water and the National Basketball Association, among others.

“It wasn’t my belief that I would be leading the search for new and bigger business on my own,” said Kantrow. “That was part of why we brought on Neil. The planning and execution of that took time . . . and we’re starting to bear the fruits of that.”

MDC acquired Powell’s namesake agency in April and merged it with Margeotes Fertitta + Partners to form MFP. Powell, who had created non-traditional campaigns for clients like Rheingold, was also thought to bring new thinking to an agency that was known for creating TV and print campaigns.

Last month, MFP launched an interactive campaign for Samsung that featured online films that could be downloaded to cell pones and an application that allows visitors to the site,, to edit their films.

Together, Kantrow and Powell have focused on initiatives like epanding MFP’s direct marketing and interactive business, and have added personnel in those disciplines. The agency has also lost longtime senior executives including COO Fred Langbecker, who was let go after Kantrow’s arrival; CFO Paul Mendela, who retired; and director of client services Nancy Katz and director of planning Leeann Leahy, both of whom now lead the Johnson & Johnson account at Lowe in New York.