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Modem Media Names New CEO

Modem Media's co-founder, chairman and chief executive G.M. O'Connell said he's ceding his CEO duties to a newcomer.

Marc Particelli will take over the helm at the Norwalk, Conn.-based interactive shop, aiming to differentiate the company from its floundering competitors and to reverse the company's six-month decline in stock price.

O'Connell, who will retain the title of chairman, praised Particelli as "a seasoned strategic consultant and business manager, who has demonstrated an ability to succeed in an environment as dynamic as ours."

O'Connell said the change would allow him to focus on specific clients, and provide "leadership for Modem's brand in the industry," while Particelli would concentrate on "strategic opportunities and financial performance."

Particelli most recently served as a partner and managing director with private equity partnership Oak Hill Capital Partners, and on the private equity side of hedge fund Odyssey Partners. In both positions, he oversaw a number of companies looking to boost operating margins and execute on their business plans.

That's the experience Modem Media is hoping to parlay into a reversal of fortunes. While faring somewhat better than some of its peers -- last quarter, Modem Media surprised the Street by posting a before-charges profit of $1.5 million, or $0.01 per share -- the outlook isn't necessarily so rosy. Now, First Call/Thompson Financial consensus expects Modem Media to report a fourth quarter, per-share loss of $0.06, on slightly lower sales.

While the loss of about $1.49 million won't severely hurt the firm -- it has about $26.6 million in cash and marketable securities on hand -- Particelli said he aims to make the firm stand out among its peer integrators and interactive agencies.

Particelli said Modem Media "operates in the truly differentiated area of driving strategic thought and offering creative solutions."

That had better be the case, as investors lately haven't been terribly pleased with the crowded sector, punishing it for continuing losses and revenue warnings. Big names in the sector like Sapient, MarchFirst and Viant are trading near their 52-week lows.

But Particelli said he's confident that his new firm is "well-positioned for solid, profitable growth going forward ... Modem Media has all the right ingredients for success -- talented employees, the best client roster in the industry, and a remarkable heritage."

At press time, shares of MMPT were trading at $4.00, up 12.3 percent by still well off the stock's 52-week high of $56.94.