IQ News: INSIDER – Drawn To Magnet

In a world where technophiles and 25-year-olds run multi-million dollar Internet advertising and design companies, Gary Sproule, chief financial officer of Magnet Interactive, is an anomaly. At 47, he has spent 25 years in the oil and gas industry as chief operating officer and head of marketing and corporate finance initiatives for the 76 Products division of Unocal Corp. in Los Angeles.
Now he is part of a management team at the Washington, D.C.-based Magnet that is focused on taking the company public in the next year.
“I’m not a technical person by any stretch,” Sproule says. Yet he declined job offers in the oil and health care industries in December to join the company, which earned $16 million in revenues last year providing interactive communications and technology services for clients including Kellogg’s, Nissan and Federal Express.
“This whole interactive, new media category really intrigued me,” Sproule says. He had seen how applications of the Net were utilized at Unocal, as well as how his four kids use it at home.
Sproule comes on board as Magnet opens a Los Angeles office, where he will be stationed most of the time– between trips to New York and D.C. He will lead Magnet in seeking strategic partnerships with traditional agencies, though Magnet will remain “pure play, pure interactive.”
Most of his duties, including securing backers for an IPO, are similar to his past experience, even if he does not fit the mold of new media honchos.
“Up on Wall Street, the investment bankers, they find it fairly unique,” he says. “They also think it’s quite a positive point.
“The business concepts, the business principles are the same,” he continues. “I think the reason I was hired was I did about 15 years of corporate finance and strategic planning. I think I know how to help grow a company.”
Among the areas he sees expanding are intranet and extranet applications. “I think clearly we see tremendous growth in the category, as well as at Magnet.”
Sproule says he doesn’t feel like a suit in a T-shirt world at the interactive agency. Magnet has drawn other non-techies, including a CPA, an advertising exec and an engineer. “It’s quite diverse,” he says.
And though he may not have been doing Java programming or running an IT department, Sproule is confident that he’ll be able to give Magnet some pull. “I think what really appealed to me was the growth potential in this category,” he says. “It’s limitless.”