For more than 20 years, John Kramer has led ICON. Joining the company shortly after its founding, he has developed it from its formative years into the industry leader it is today. As a part of that development process, Mr Kramer initiated the strategic sale of the company from a group of professional investors to Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC), concluding the transaction in 2003.
Before taking his leadership role at ICON, his career spanned many years in the broadcasting and media business. In 1989, he started Media Store Inc. (MSI), a media-buying and magazine-representative business. Seed capital from professional investors, as well as from Time Inc., provided funding for MSI, which was later merged with ICON.
Prior to MSI, Kramer was an owner and principal of advertising firm Cable Networks Inc., which was the first national advertising-representative firm in the cable industry. CNI became the dominant rep firm holding an 80% market share of the national spot cable business. He eventually sold the firm to 3M’s advertising services business unit. Through his media businesses, Kramer became very knowledgeable about barter, regularly trading media time for other goods and services. When an investor in his company became an investor in ICON, his interest was piqued.
Still, Kramer insists his personality and natural aptitudes have more to do with his success than any professional credentials (or his bachelors degree in journalism from Ohio State). He says, “Though our delivery is paramount to the success of a transaction, my contribution tends to be at the onset. When I get into a room with a group of people, I quickly try to determine who needs what and then patiently put the pieces of the deal together.”
Equally important according to Kramer is remaining cognizant that the barter firm is also a buyer, and sometimes “no” is the best answer for everyone involved. “One of our great and unique strengths in the industry,” he explains, “is that we have established proprietary metrics that tell us very clearly when a transaction makes sense – and when it does not.”