Senior Execs Exit Varick Media Amid MDC Media Partners Transition

tradeMDC Partners’ trading desk Varick Media has witnessed an exodus of numerous senior executives on the road to a new organizational hierarchy, first laid out in 2014.

Many have recently left the trading desk – or transferred to sister agencies – as the holding company centralized Varick’s operations (and moves to offices housing the agency Assembly by the end of the year) under MDC Media Partners, claim sources with knowledge of the situation.

The latest departure is Varick president Paul Rostkowski, who has left to become president and COO of the indie trading desk Programmatic Mechanics, which he co-founded two years ago with Keith Gooberman, also a Varick alum. Walt Cheruk, most recently a sales SVP at agency Magnetic, has assumed Rostkowski’s role as president.

Meanwhile, other members of Varick’s senior leadership team have either migrated to other roles within MDC (Jim Caruso, Varick’s SVP of product and client strategy, will assume a role at MDC sister agency, Anomaly) or have left the agency altogether.

Several MDC agencies had allegedly vied for Varick’s P&L, which was originally housed under the more creative-focused MDC agency KBS+.

The trading desk was founded in 2008, back when programmatic was more of a specialty practice, and Varick produced a lot of profit – largely because it wasn’t transparent, said a source with knowledge of the company.

In January, MDC Media Partners officially took the reins of Varick’s P&L. Martin Cass, the colorful Brit and ex-Carat president who serves as CEO of MDC Media Partners and Assembly, was tasked with consolidating MDC’s media assets around Varick’s technology.  

But trade desks were under growing pressure. Brands started clamoring for more agency transparency and the recent ANA report on agency rebate practices fanned the fire.

“As long as [Varick] was hitting goals, there was this idea that everything would be fine,” one source said. “The market forced Varick to become transparent, and profits evaporated within a quarter or two.”

In short, the source claimed Varick was not generating the kind of business that it used to.

And Varick continued to struggle with a talent loss – partially due to alleged political rivalries within the holding company ranks and poaching from competitive camps.

“I think a lot of people were scared about the leadership changes,” a source said. “Martin Cass is really good with clients and they keep winning big accounts, but he is not a technology guy. And he had been fighting [to have] Varick for a while.”

MDC Partners declined to comment for this story.

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