John Dooner showed up at McCann-Erickson WorldGroup last Thursday to reintroduce himself to executives at the company he ran until 2001, when he joined parent IPG.
After Dooner's tumultuous stint running the holding company, its board last week sent him back to the operating unit to replace ousted CEO Jim Heekin.
Dooner met with the 20 or so WorldGroup board members for 30 minutes on Thursday afternoon. The mood was initially glum, sources said. "I'm outta there," Dooner told them, referring to IPG. "I'm back here. Let's get on with it."
The news of Heekin's unceremonious dismissal immediately divided the shop into two camps: the "Johnnies" and the "Jimmys," as one source described it.
Some colleagues strongly defended Heekin's record, insisting he was the scapegoat for all the ills within IPG. Others countered that McCann's recent performance—namely a profit shortfall of some 35 percent to be revealed this week—warranted the change.
By Friday, even Heekin loyalists had become more philosophical.
"We've got families and clients to take care of," said one source. "If they brought in someone from the outside, it wouldn't have been good. People understand that John can walk right in and take over, so they feel somewhat reassured."
Several sources said they expect that Dooner will move swiftly to make changes at the most senior levels of WorldGroup, starting with the McCann-Erickson agency's regional directors. Those executives are Mark Gault (North America), Peter Hamilton (Asia Pacific), Ben Langdon (Europe/Middle East/Africa) and Jens Olesen (Latin America/Caribbean). None could be reached for comment at press time.
"If there's one thing John learned at IPG, it's that he has to act quickly," one source said.