True North Communications' selection of David Bell as its new chief executive officer looks like a compromise within the fractious network, sources said.
Bell, who takes over from Bruce Mason as TN's chairman and CEO April 1, had several advantages in his favor, including his age, 55. As chief executive officer of TN's Bozell Worldwide, he had a reputation as a consensus builder, something sorely needed at TN [Adweek, Feb. 22]. That made him palatable to Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide.
That was not the case with Chuck Peebler, 63, who remains chairman and CEO of TN Diversified Cos. Peebler's ambition for the post and confrontational style cost him the support of FCB Worldwide CEO Brendan Ryan, among others, early in the hunt, sources said. Ryan and Bell also have something of a personality conflict, which sources said added to the delay. Ryan and Peebler did not return calls.
Bell said it was only thoroughness that delayed the choice until two weeks before Mason's exit. "It's the right timing given the year we've been through," Bell said. He declined to
discuss specifics of his job until April 1.
Leo-Arthur Kelmenson, who succeeds Bell as CEO of Bozell Worldwide and keeps his chairmanship, said TN wants to send a message to the financial community. "We want the world to believe that David Bell's appointment is not an accident, it's a carefully studied transition," he said.
TN stock closed unchanged at $28 Friday; it also reported last week 1998 net income at $36.1 million, from a 1997 loss of $50 million.
Prior to the announcement, rumored candidates for the post included TN director W. Grant Gregory, chairman of Greenwich, Conn., investment bank Gregory & Hoenemeyer; TN's CFO, Don Seeley; and TN director Don Elliman.