CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/THE PARTNERSHIP - IPG aims to emulate McCann's success with Lowe. The development of a third IPG holding company is no surprise to Jeremy White

Last week's news that the Interpublic Group of companies was

creating a new group, The Partnership, headed by Frank Lowe, chairman of

The Lowe Group and Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, came as little

surprise to some.



When IPG's new chief executive, John Dooner, took over the reins it was

inevitable that he was going to make his mark on the group. Developing a

holding company along the lines of his old territory, the McCann World

Group, seems to be his chosen starting point.



The restructuring follows the company's recent acquisition of True North

Communications and means that The Partnership will now become IPG's

third global network group alongside McCann-Erickson and True North's

FCB Worldwide.



Lowe will head the new holding company, with True North's David Bell as

the chief executive and Michael Sennott moving from Lowe Lintas &

Partners Worldwide to act in a supporting role.



"What Dooner created with an integrated collection of agencies with the

McCann World Group, is a sensible thing to do and The Partnership is

trying to replicate that," comments a source within IPG, who is

reluctant to divulge their identity prior to official confirmation of

the restructure.



"Something like this is a sensible thing for Dooner to be doing. He

needs to put some shape on the disparate parts of Interpublic."



Lauren Fine, the managing director in equity research at Merrill Lynch's

New York office, concurs. "You've got a lot of different assets there

and if you can align them differently and get them to work better

together, it looks like a good idea," she says.



The plan is that The Partnership would team IPG's PR, media, advertising

and marketing services agencies into more streamlined groups. Details

are yet to be confirmed, but it is thought that the network will

principally be composed of Lowe Lintas & Partners, Initiative Media and

IPG's recently acquired Deutsch. It will also include Dailey &

Associates, Mullen/LHC, The Martin Agency, Draft Worldwide, Golin/Harris

and Suissa Miller. Bozell and Avrett Free Ginsberg are also expected to

be folded into the new group.



"The goal here is not necessarily to integrate each of those assets but

you do run the risk, as you align them, of people getting sensitive

about conflict issues and also of egos clashing," continues Fine. "It's

a high-risk, high-reward type of move but I think it is very consistent

with my view of John Dooner. He is willing to shake things up and is

committed to improving the growth rate."



However, Fine feels that The Partnership's chosen title will rob the

group of one of its strongest assets. "The Lowe name still has a panache

to it and I am surprised that they are not trying to do something with

it," she says.



"These people will not take easily to being all part of The Lowe Group,"

explains the IPG source. "This is why it is branded The Partnership and

not The Lowe Group, which would have been the obvious choice when

replicating McCann.



"We're seeing an emerging plan that Dooner hopes will take shape over

the next couple of years. Basically, it will become a more cohesive and

tightly managed group over a period of time. But he has to start with a

relatively loose collection of companies because he just wouldn't get

those people to play the game right now."



It could also be argued that IPG and Lowe want to keep other agencies

such as Mullen/LHC separate from The Lowe Group brand, which is meant to

be emerging as a separate integrated offering. An influx of new agencies

would only muddy the water.



Lowe himself may have preferred the entity to carry his name, but in the

end seems to have accepted giving up his name on the door in order to

get rival networks to play the game. Sources are adamant that his new

post is not a sweetener for an early exit, saying that if Dooner wanted

him out he would have already gone. The view from inside IPG is that the

company is handling Lowe well here. He's been given a big job but IPG

hasn't given him everything he wanted.



The management structure also resolves some key power issues within Lowe

Lintas & Partners' Worldwide. With Sennott moved slightly to one side,

the position of Jerry Judge, the chief executive and chosen successor to

Lowe, is rendered more secure. Some had speculated that Sennott was

beginning to run the show.



It's the choice of chief executive for The Partnership that has been

greeted with most scepticism. "The appointment of Bell as chief

executive is probably a short-term thing," says the IPG source.



"He's halfway out the door and is only there to soften the blow to some

people."



Lowe himself insists that handing the day-to-day running of the Lowe

network to Judge will allow him to focus once again on the network's

creative product and get away from a number-crunching role.



"I like going to see people to talk about advertising, not about

finance," he offers. "I always vowed I would go back to doing that."



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