McKinney Counting on Brinegar

Brad Brinegar, whose career at Leo Burnett ended when he was pushed out by political in fighting, beat out an internal candidate for the top job at McKinney & Silver, a shop that is struggling with a severe decline in business.

Brinegar, 46, takes over as president and CEO, succeeding Don Maurer, who was killed in a car wreck in October.

In 2001, the shop saw billings drop to $275 million from $350 million a year earlier, while revenue slid nearly 24 percent to $20 million as clients like XO Communications (along with its $80 million ad budget) spiraled toward bankruptcy.

“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.”

McKinney has not added a new account since last August’s $40 million Nasdaq win. In October, three members of the agency’s executive com mittee—media director John Klein, account planner Andrew Delbridge and executive creative director David Baldwin—named a fourth member, director of client services Cameron McNaughton, to oversee interim operations.

Arnold CEO Ed Es kandarian hired Pile and Co.’s executive search unit in Boston to identify candidates to replace Maurer. Among them were former Long Haymes Carr CEO Steve Zades and at least two members of McKinney’s executive committee, sources said.

Eskandarian interviewed eight or nine people, and said it came down to “Brad and one internal candidate.” Sources said McNaughton was the in-house finalist.

“I had several long conversations with the runner-up,” Eskandarian said. “There was disappointment, not resentment.” Sources also suggested the committee had hoped to expand the search to other candidates.

In Raleigh, many of the shop’s 130 staffers were relieved that 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 spent 20 years at Burnett, interrupted by a two-year stint running Ammirati Puris Lintas’ short-lived Chicago operation. He was CEO of Leo Burnett USA when he was ousted in October following a long-simmering power struggle with Burnett Worldwide president Bob Brennan.

Brinegar impressed Eskandarian during a Dec. 10 conversation. Sources familiar with that discussion suggested Brinegar offered to buy McKinney outright.