Interpublic’s Top Brass Hand Back 1.2m Stock Options

21 May 2003

In a gesture of contrition at the agency holding company’s lackluster performance, senior executives at Interpublic Group have returned to the company some 1.2 million stock options to which they were contractually entitled.

According to new chairman/ceo David Bell, he himself led the parade of penitents, among whom are his predecessor John J Dooner, Foote Cone & Belding ceo Brendan Ryan, and chairman emeritus Philip H Geier.

The votive offerings were reverently placed on the altar of investor relations at Interpublic’s annual shareholders meeting Tuesday. Their sacrifices were not in vain.

Barely stifling a Hallelujah!, shareholder Mark Shapiro, who once worked at the group’s event marketing unit Momentum, was overcome: “"They gave a noble amount [of options]. Anything more would beg questions.”

Perhaps because of the stock oblations, the general ambience at the meeting was cordial and supportive of management, Bell in particular. However, a number of slightly edgy questions were asked about the level of increases in executive remuneration alongside the dive in stock values over the past few years.

One investor was indelicate enough to question why former chairman John Dooner had been awarded a handsome retirement package when he quit the post in February, only to return to his former job as ceo of McCann-Erickson WorldGroup?

This munificence, Bell replied, was in recognition of Dooner’s high-performing thirty years at McCann – allotted at a time when conditions [and accounting practices?] were different.

Another shareholder asked if McCann executives had been invited to return past bonuses in the light of the group’s $181.3 million restatement of earnings for 1997 through 2002? They had not, said Bell, as the amount “is not material to the bonus awards”. It is not recorded whether any eyebrows were raised at this answer.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff