‘The Buck Can Finally Stop’

Brad Brinegar arrives at McKinney & Silver at a time when the shop—still coping with the death of its CEO—is struggling to reverse a drastic revenue decline in 2001.

A Leo Burnett veteran, Brinegar joins the Raleigh, N.C.-based agency as president and CEO. The 46-year old Chicagoan replaces Don Maurer, who was killed in a car accident in October.

“I’m going to work hard to get the senior team to agree where we want to point the agency,” said Brinegar. “A good part of my time will be spent outside trying to grow the place.”

In 2001, the shop saw billings drop to $275 million from $350 million a year earlier while revenue slid 23 percent to $20 million, as clients such as XO Communications (with an $80 million ad budget) spiraled toward bankruptcy.

McKinney, part of Havas’ Arnold network, has not added a new account since last August’s$40 million Nasdaq win. In October, three members of the shop’s executive committee—media director John Klein, account planner Andrew Delbridge and ecd David Baldwin—named a fourth member, director of client services Cameron McNaughton, to oversee operations as searched for a new CEO.

Arnold chief Ed Eskandarian hired Pile and Co.’s executive search unit to identify potential candidates. Among them: former Long Haymes Carr CEO Steve Zades and at least two members of McKinney’s executive committee, sources said. The list, said Eskandarian, who interviewed 8-9 candidates, came down to “Brad and one internal candidate.” Sources said McNaughton was the in-house finalist.

In Raleigh, many of the shop’s 130 staffers were relieved a selection had been made. “It’s great that the buck can finally stop,” said Baldwin. “At the end of the day, you need one person to make decisions.”

Brinegar, an affable Chicagoan, most recently was CEO of Leo Burnett U.S. He was ousted in October in a power struggle with Burnett Worldwide president Bob Brennan after 20 years at the shop. Brinegar also led Ammirati Puris Lintas’ short-lived Chicago office.

Brinegar began his career in 1979 at Leo Burnett. By 1998, as executive vice president and group account director, he was responsibe for overseeing accounts such as Allstate, M&M Mars, Kraft and Procter & Gamble.

Sources said his superb account-service skills are occasionally undercut by a tendency to micromanage. “He’s going to have to learn to delegate,” said a former colleague.

Brinegar, who holds degrees from Dartmouth and Columbia University, impressed Eskandarian during a Dec. 10 conversation. Sources familiar with that discussion suggested Brinegar offered to buy McKinney outright.