Flirting With ‘Disaster Scenarios’

Art D’Angelo is battle-tested. During his eight years at Bates and its London-based parent, Cordiant Communications Group, he has contended with the 1997 de-merger of Bates and Saatchi & Saatchi, an aggressive acquisition strategy gone bad and an industrywide recession.

At the start of next year, the CCG finance director will take on another challenge when he becomes CFO at Interpublic Group’s McCann-Erickson WorldGroup. He fills the post previously held by Sal LaGreca, who made an abrupt exit in October in the wake of accounting errors at the New York-based agency. IPG recently disclosed an imbalance of $181.3 million, most of which stems from some of McCann’s European offices.

“He’s seen lots of choppy waters, so I guess he’s qualified,” said one executive. “Disaster scenarios are not new to him.”

D’Angelo did not return calls by press time. The executive, 51, has served in top financial posts at Saatchi & Saatchi Holdings USA and BP North America. The trick will be for the newcomer to be tough, per IPG’s marching orders, yet navigate the political waters at McCann, sources said. On operational matters, he’ll report to WorldGroup CEO Jim Heekin, and on financial ones, he’ll report to IPG CFO Sean Orr.

Some analysts last week questioned IPG’s choice, saying D’Angelo comes from a financially troubled company that suffered a 10 percent first-half revenue decline and has been slow to exercise cost controls. Others placed much of the blame for CCG’s bad fortunes on the down economy and outgoing CEO Michael Bungey, the architect of the company’s acquisition strategy. Many of CCG’s 40 pur chases over the past five years “look ill judged with the benefit of hindsight,” said one analyst.

While CCG has fallen on tough times, analysts said there has been no financial impropriety. D’An gelo is an “honest finance director who was always very open in terms of the numbers and going through the details,” said one analyst.

CCG deputy finance director Andy Boland, who joined the company in 1998 from WPP Group, will replace D’Angelo.

Boland, 33, who has been overseeing CCG’s treasury, finance and M&A functions, was largely responsible for renegotiating its banking covenants earlier this year. “He helped with the acquisitions in the bull market and refinancing in the bear market,” said one analyst, adding that Boland must now focus on controlling costs and expanding margins.