John Greco Out as CEO at Direct Marketing Association

John Greco has resigned as chief executive at the Direct Marketing Association, a position he’s held since January 2005. His exit follows a year of setbacks, including the departure of a longtime deputy and a proxy battle to challenge the DMA’s management mounted by a former board member.

Also during the year, the DMA conducted significant layoffs that were punctuated by a conspicuous wage increase for Greco. The company’s Form 990 tax filing pegged his salary for fiscal year 2008 at $720,671, plus $117,857 in contributions to employee benefit plans and deferred compensation plans — a raise of more than $19,000 compared to fiscal year 2007. Meanwhile, over the past 16 months the DMA has conducted two rounds of layoffs, sources say and reports confirm.

In a statement, the DMA said it has begun a search for Greco’s replacement.

“It’s more important than ever to ensure that both traditional and digital multi-channel direct marketing is at the forefront of [economic] recovery,” said Eugene Raitt, chairman of the DMA board of directors, in a statement. “Bringing in new leadership to the management team focusing on the areas we intend to grow will be part of that process.”

Multiple sources said Greco’s exit comes as no surprise. They pointed to the departure in September of his chief operating officer, Ramesh Lakshi-Ratan. The two previously worked together at the Yellow Pages Association, and Lakshi-Ratan’s exit — with no explanation or replacement — appeared an ominous sign for Greco, they said.

Greco’s viability may also have been weakened by a conspicuous proxy fight with former board member Gerry Pike, who alleged that the association had been mismanaged under Greco’s leadership. Pike asked a large number of the DMA’s members to assign him their proxy vote and promised to rein in executive compensation and reduce conference fees, among other things.

“As membership, revenue and reserves have plunged DMA’s management has cloaked its intentions from members and closed off communication,” stated that letter in a passage quoted by Direct Magazine and other marketing sites.

Greco’s resignation was effective yesterday.

The DMA’s membership includes approximately 3,100 companies in the U.S. and 48 other nations, including half of the Fortune 100 companies. Its subsidiaries include the Email Experience Council and The Internet Alliance.

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