Kirk McDonald Named Interim Boss of AT&T’s Xandr

The appointment comes after CEO Brian Lesser's surprise exit

Brian Lesser (pictured left) is to be replaced on an interim basis by Xandr's chief business officer Kirk McDonald (pictured right). Getty Images, Xandr
Headshot of Ronan Shields

Kirk McDonald has been installed as interim chief of Xandr following Wednesday’s unexpected exit of CEO Brian Lesser, a move that cut short his two-and-a-half-year reign at the top of AT&T’s ad-tech unit.

Xandr has yet to officially communicate externally on the reshuffling of its leadership team despite multiple requests for comment, but sources with knowledge of the developments told Adweek McDonald will lead the outfit on an interim basis and report directly to John Stankey, president and COO of AT&T and CEO of WarnerMedia.

AT&T confirmed Lesser’s exit, effective March 31, and McDonald’s promotion in a memo to Xandr employees today. “Brian’s decision comes at a logical time, as we prepare to go to market with our owned and operated inventory with WarnerMedia as one organization,” said AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson in the memo.

McDonald was formerly Xandr’s chief business officer. His appointment comes during an eventful week for Xandr, during which it scrapped its previously scheduled upfront event with sister outfit WarnerMedia as part of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Additionally, Xandr also announced Wednesday deals with AMC Networks and Disney in a PR-initiative that prominently featured outgoing chief Lesser.

Lesser’s exit brings to an end a tenure that saw him join from GroupM, where he was CEO of North America, and led the outfit’s rebrand from AdCo to Xandr in 2018. This period also saw the outfit embark on an acquisition spree, including the $1.6 billion purchase of AppNexus in 2018 and last year’s purchase of Clypd, which is powering the new iteration of Xandr Invest. More recently, the company took a minority stake in privacy outfit InfoSum.

Sources say Lesser had been vying for the CEO role at WarnerMedia, and his exit followed AT&T’s decision to reduce Xandr’s external prominence.

Xandr’s communications department did not respond to Adweek’s requests for comment on the latest leadership developments.

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.