MDC Partners Sees Opportunity in a Downturn

CEO goes after gains during tough economic times

While practically everyone else is bemoaning their fate during a downturn, Miles Nadal has been capitalizing on opportunities. On Thursday afternoon, the founder and CEO of MDC Partners outlined his strategy for producing growth in the midst of a difficult economy in a one-on-one discussion – “Good Advice for Bad Times” – with journalist Nicole Lapin.

MDC’s leader looks to the words of Warren Buffett—who he referred to as “the world’s smartest man”—for practical guidance when it comes to the timing of acquisitions: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. “From 2001 through 2005, when the world was terrible we were quite ambitious. We were buying in a very uncertain market,” said Nadal. He operated according to that same playbook in 2008. “When the world was puking up, I got excited.” For her part, Lapin comically—yet astutely—responded to his metaphor by saying, “Well, you were holding America’s hair back as they were puking.” Still, Nadal is not waiting for a turn-around to forge ahead with growing MDC’s business: in 2010, the company completed 13 acquisitions.   

Nadal, however, is not convinced that the ad world has hit a rough patch based on the dismal economic climate. “We’re not in a bad time. This industry is in a good place,” said Nadal, who highlighted that MDC experienced 24 percent organic growth during the first half of the year. He did point to widespread anxiety over the state of affairs in Europe and the U.S. housing market as factors creating great uncertainty. Still, of consumers, he said, “Despite all that, people are still spending. They don’t feel good, but they’re still spending.”