OMC Plays It Close To The Vest In Ga.

Omnicom Group last week held its annual shareholder meeting in Atlanta, far from the prying eyes of Wall Street, a tactic that had some observers wondering whether the holding company is feeding the notion that it is less forthcoming than its peers.

Fewer than 30 people attended the half-hour meeting, led by CEO John Wren, a stark contrast to the crowd at IPG’s May 18 shareholder meeting at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York. There, several outspoken shareholders questioned top executives’ bonuses.

“The world post-Enron and WorldCom has become more cynical,” said Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein in New York. “You would think a company with a good stable of assets and a stellar track record would want to share it with the world.”

Several agency execs echoed that sentiment, saying that the company’s out-of-the-way meeting unnecessarily created an air of mystery.

Fred Searby, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase, said the ad business traditionally has been “opaque” about financial disclosure but has improved in the past three years. “WPP stands out in transparency in the industry,” he said. “IPG is getting better. Omnicom has improved, but it still needs to become more transparent.”

Pat Sloan, an Omnicom rep, said: “We have been rotating both board and annual meetings for some time. Our board regards this as a learning experience in terms of both our operating companies and our investors, as we have large investors in all major cities.”

At the meeting, a plan was passed to raise Omnicom’s nonexecutive board-member compensation by 42 percent. All board members were re-elected.