New MDC chief Mark Penn looks to drive collaboration among agencies

Penn's Stagwell Group fund invested $100 million in the debt-ridden holding company.

Mark Penn, the former Microsoft executive and Burson-Marsteller CEO who founded Stagwell Group in 2015 with an initial investment capital of $250 million, has taken a 29% stake in MDC Partners and has been named CEO.

The Stagwell Group fund has invested $100 million in the holding company, which has been struggling with debt. Penn, who will also continue to lead Stagwell with a team of 14 executives, said MDC has "been looking for stronger, experienced leadership."

"These are great agencies that have been underappreciated and undervalued," he added. "I think they’re quite complementary to the things we’ve been doing at Stagwell, where we have almost no creative agencies."

In September, MDC announced that Scott Kauffman would be stepping down from his role as CEO. The news of Kauffmann's departure came after MDC reported an organic revenue decline of 1.7% in Q2 2018. At the time, potential sales of MDC assets were an "ongoing conversation around the table."

Penn said that’s not part of his plans.

"I think a lot more can be done here in terms of the agencies," he said, adding that he wants to organize them into a more collaborative network.

When asked if the new structure would include mergers of existing agencies, Penn said it is "premature to speculate on that," but that he wants the shops to collaborate more. He also said it’s too early to discuss whether he plans to change MDC’s P&L structure.

Penn said he plans to put together a plan to reduce debt and drive strategic clarity among the agencies, which include the likes of 72andSunny and Anomaly. MDC's PR firms include Allison+Partners, Hunter, and KWT Global. 

MDC also on Friday reported an 0.3% revenue drop in Q4 to $393.7 million and an 0.1% drop for all of last year to $1.48 billion. 

While MDC is still in significant debt, the $100 million investment has dented it slightly.

"Our total leverage ratio per our credit facility was 5.2x. After today’s announcements, our leverage ratio drops to 4.7," said MDC Partners CFO David Doft on Friday’s earnings call.

An earlier version of this story first appeared on campaignlive.com.

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