With the imminent departure of Mediabrands CEO Nick Brien to Interpublic Group sibling McCann Worldgroup, where he will replace John Dooner, a group of four senior managers at the media unit are considered strong contenders to succeed Brien as CEO. Someday.
IPG confirmed last week that Brien would officially assume the Worldgroup reins as CEO on April 1, with Dooner retaining the chairman's title and assisting in the transition though 2010.
The appointment of a new CEO at Mediabrands isn't expected for at least another year. In the meantime, the four internal candidates -- Mediabrands COO and CFO Tara Comonte; Universal McCann worldwide CEO Matt Seiler; Initiative worldwide CEO Richard Beaven; and incoming Mediabrands Ventures CEO Matt Freeman -- will jointly manage the media oversight arm while running their separate operations. The group will report directly to IPG CEO Michael Roth.
"They all have different strengths and all are considered primary candidates" at this point for the CEO slot, said an IPG company source familiar with the matter.
Sources said that Roth stays closely tuned to developments at Mediabrands and that he would like to see Brien's successor appointed "from within."
Both of Mediabrands main agencies -- Initiative and Universal McCann -- have turned around their fortunes dramatically of late. Considered sputtering also-rans just a few short years ago, they are now considered two of the better performing media shops. (UM was just named Adweek's 2009 U.S. Media Agency of the Year while Initiative collected the same honor a year ago.)
IPG insiders expect a smooth transition for Mediabrands from the Brien era, noting that Comonte, Seiler and Beaven have all been on the Mediabrands executive committee with Brien. "They've been wearing two hats. The difference now is they'll report to Roth," a source said.
Meanwhile, a source said, Mediabrands will continue to execute plans put in place under Brien. "The course is set, with support from IPG," the source said. The most recent examples came just last week, when the unit revealed global expansion plans for search specialist Reprise and brought Freeman aboard to manage a growing portfolio of emerging digitally focused assets including Reprise, mobile shop Amsbile and hyper-local operation Geomentum.
And the firm will continue to streamline certain functions such as human resources, local buying, analytics and communications, per sources.
When Brien joined IPG in 2005 as CEO of Universal McCann, he insisted that UM be financially restructured to have its own set of P&Ls so that it could invest and deploy resources separately and independently of Worldgroup for the first time.
However, Brien was always quick to stress that he hoped UM and sibling agency McCann Erickson would collaborate where possible, given that around half of UM's clients are shared with its creative sibling. Now that he's been appointed to run Worldgroup, "it expands our ability to collaborate even further," as one insider put it.
The source said it's expected that Brien will drive more integration and collaboration between different entities at Worldgroup and Mediabrands. "At Mediabrands, it was all built on collaboration, people working together in different ways to get a better result," the source said.
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