Bell Sets TN’s Course

CHICAGO-Abandoning the quest of his predecessor, True North Communications chief executive officer David Bell said last week that the company is no longer seeking a third agency network.
“We have no plans for a third network,” Bell said in remarks following the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Chicago. “We have brands that are extremely capable.”
Relying on TN’s two main legs, Foote, Cone & Belding and Bozell Worldwide, represents “a shift of strategic focus,” Bell said. Former CEO Bruce Mason, who stepped down March 31, was open in his desire for a third global brand. Bell said TN would continue its efforts to build a stronger global network for existing divisions through acquisitions and mergers, concentrating initially on Europe, and plans to “aggressively expand” its promotional services group outside the U.S.
In remarks to shareholders, Bell said he was not satisfied with TN’s earnings, which he said have been over-reliant on acquisitions instead of organic growth, which represented just 1.4 percent of revenue growth last year.
Cognizant of the cultural differences that have hampered cooperation between FCB and Bozell, Bell stressed the need for greater collaboration within TN, announcing incentive programs to reward executives fostering collaboration among the various TN entities.
“We do get it,” Bell said of the problems that have kept TN’s stock price far below its market peers. But he said the opportunity remains to leapfrog ahead.
“[No one] has cracked the whole code,” he said. “We have the assets, we have the levers for growth.”