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International: Interpublic Group hires Mark Rosenthal to oversee Universal McCann, Initiative Worldwide & Magna Global

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International: Interpublic Group hires Mark Rosenthal to oversee Universal McCann, Initiative Worldwide & Magna Global

One day after losing the media-buying business of the largest US advertiser, Interpublic Group of Companies has named a former MTV executive to help turn around its troubled media operations, according to the company.

Mark Rosenthal, 53, who left his position as President and COO of MTV Networks last year, will take on the role of Chairman-CEO of the media operations, a new position. He will oversee Universal McCann, Initiative Worldwide, the negotiating unit Magna Global and other specialty agencies within Interpublic.

Rosenthal’s appointment marks the end of a several-months-long search to find a top boss for its struggling operations. Just yesterday, General Motors Corp. moved its $3.5 billion national media buying business from Interpublic to Publicis Groupe’s Planworks. Other account losses include parts of Unilever and Nestle.

Interpublic has said publicly it needs to better align its media agencies to compete with holding company rivals Publicis and WPP Group. At Publicis, an advisory board oversees media networks Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia. WPP has an entity called GroupM, a holding company within the holding company that contains MindShare, Mediaedge:cia and the fledgling Maxus.

With its loss of the GM business, Interpublic now slips behind WPP, Publicis and Omnicom Group in terms of billings on a worldwide basis, according to the trade organization RECMA.

It was initially unclear just how Interpublic will realign the media agencies, though a statement from the company said Initiative and Universal McCann will remain independent of each other and that Magna will continue in its current function as an aggregated negotiations unit.

Rosenthal enters Interpublic at a challenging time, as bookkeeping issues prevent the release of the most recent financial numbers and the company struggles to continue its turnaround, a key part of which is a solution to its media ills. Interpublic's Chairman-CEO, Michael Roth, who took the reigns of the company earlier this year, has repeatedly said that fixing the media offering was his top priority.

Prior to Roth's appointment, the company tapped John Dooner, Chairman-CEO of Interpublic silo McCann Worldgroup, to come up with a fix. The executive search was marked by fervent industry speculation about whom Interpublic would tap and a veritable who’s who of media business figures, from Carat’s David Verklin to MindShare’s Dominic Procter to the National Football League’s Phil Guarascio, were said to have been courted by Dooner. The search also witnessed the ouster of two Interpublic media agency executives, Universal McCann CEO Robin Kent and Initiative's global chairman, Marie-Jose Forissier.

One of Rosenthal’s first tasks will be to find replacements for both executives. He will also have to make the media networks more competitive on the new business scene. Despite winning the coveted Intel account earlier this year, Universal McCann is currently defending a large amount of business, with both L’Oreal and the retailer Lowe’s in review.



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