Media Planning Doldrums Led To Farella Exit

NEW YORK — Steve Farella was forced out as CEO of Media Planning’s U.S. operation last week because the Barcelona-based global media network was impatient with the pace of new business and its efforts to become a top U.S. player, sources said.

Media Planning, owned by French holding company Havas, declined to comment on the move, but Farella said he was told the company wanted “a change of direction.”

With $3.4 billion in billings, Media Planning is the No. 10 media shop in the U.S. Havas hoped to achieve critical mass in this country by acquiring Tempus’ CIA Medianetwork – a move thwarted by WPP Group-and by bringing the buying of its agencies’ media departments under Media Planning.

Havas’ U.S. shops include Arnold McGrath and Black Rocket/ Euro RSCG. Managers had mixed views about giving up control of the media departments, but the transition under Farella mostly seemed to be going smoothly, sources said.

“The integration of the Havas agencies’ [media units into Media Planning Group, Media Planning’s holding company] is done, with the exception of Arnold, and that will be done by the end of the year,” said Farella. “In the integration, we didn’t lose one piece of business or one media executive.”

However, Media Planning has not been a major new-business contender in 2001, and has been left out or failed to advance far in big-billing reviews this year. That includes Novartis’ $250 million review, an ongoing search in which Media Planning was one of the incumbents. For now, Media Planning will be run by Antoni Rossich, CEO of MPG USA. The company declined to say whether Rossich, a European executive who arrived a few months ago, would be a permanent replacement.

-with Jack Feuer and Ann M. Mack