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When he first took a gig with Interpublic Group of Cos. in the early 2000s, Michael Roth didn't think he'd stay all that long.

The chairman and CEO of IPG, who first joined the holding company's board in 2002 and was tapped to take over the company three years later, was not an ad guy. He was part of a cleanup crew tasked with what he characterizes as "sort of a temporary responsibility" when IPG was in the throes of messy financial controls issuessort of like advertising's answer to Harvey Keitel in "Pulp Fiction."

For years, it looked like IPG might be on the brink of a sale. But things look very different these days. Today, IPG is smaller than its chief rivals in sizeit's the world's fourth-largest agency holding company with $7.9 billion in 2017 worldwide revenuebut it's consistently outperforming its peers, analysts say.

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