Big ad firm Vertis ousts its CEO of 10 months

December 05, 2006|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,Sun reporter

Vertis Communications, still struggling to adjust to changes in the advertising industry, announced yesterday that it is replacing its president and chief executive officer.

The Baltimore company said Dean D. Durbin is resigning from his post as CEO, a job that he has held for 10 months, and as president, a position he took in November 2004.

With net sales last year of about $1.5 billion, Vertis is one of the largest companies based in the Baltimore area.

Durbin will be replaced by Michael T. DuBose who is now a senior adviser to Los Angeles investment firm Aurora Capital Group. DuBose will also become chairman of Vertis, a post he will assume from Don Roland. Roland will remain on the board of directors.

Vertis executives were not available for comment last night. The statement announcing the management changes did not explain why Durbin was leaving.

Vertis is still heavily in debt from a leveraged buyout several years ago, and it is trying to better compete in a market where traditional advertising, such as in newspapers and on television, has become less effective.

The company is one of the largest providers of advertising products and services, including newspaper inserts such as coupons, TV guides and Sunday comics. Other services Vertis provides include consumer research and direct mail.

Wide clientele

Vertis clients include more than 3,000 grocery stores, drugstores and other retail chains, as well as newspapers and advertising agencies.

But it has struggled financially. Third-quarter revenue this year fell 4 percent to $352.2 million, compared with $367 million in the third quarter of 2005. The company reported a net loss in the third quarter of $18.1 million, compared with a net loss of $24.6 million in the third quarter of 2005.

In the statement yesterday, Vertis executives praised Durbin, who has been with the company since 2000. He previously served as Vertis' chief financial officer.

"During his tenure as CEO, Vertis increased volumes and greatly improved its competitive positioning in the direct marketplace," said Anthony J. DiNovi, a director of Vertis.

One of the changes Vertis made under Durbin's leadership was to sell its fragrance division earlier this year. The company said at the time it wanted to focus its resources on the development of highly targeted campaigns for Fortune 500 clients. The fragrance division produced perfume and cologne strips and cosmetics samples found in magazines.

Track record

DiNovi said that DuBose was chosen to head the company because he has a track record for increasing shareholder value at other companies.

DuBose also has served as chairman and chief executive officer of Aftermarket Technology from 1998 to 2005. On its Web site, Illinois-based Aftermarket is described as "a leading remanufacturer of a wide range of automotive drivetrain products."

Before that, DuBose was CEO and chairman of Grimes Aerospace Co. He also has held executive positions at SAIC, General Instrument and General Electric Co.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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