Some trusting souls in the business thought that this was a stunning piece of honesty, one that made the usual leaving do flannel look conspicuously silly. They had visions of him shambling round the betting shop of a late morning in his slippers.
Not so. Howard-Spink wasn't joking about his interest in racing. It's just that this interest is more serious than you'd think. He now runs West Lodge Stud, a medium to large outfit in the thoroughbred horse-breeding business.
It owns 23 brood mares and one stallion. Fifty of its horses are in training: more details can be found at www.westlodgestud.com.
Indeed, these days it's more a case of people in the racing world finding it mildly interesting that Howard-Spink dabbled a bit in advertising before setting out on his career in horse breeding.
But it was pretty serious dabbling. He was the planning guru to Frank Lowe back in the legendary days of Collett Dickenson Pearce when its work for Hamlet, Fiat and Benson & Hedges set the gold standard. Howard-Spink was playing pinball at the agency Christmas party when Lowe appeared at his shoulder and asked him if he wanted to join him on a breakaway he was planning. He said yes without taking his eye off the silver ball.
Lowe Howard-Spink opened for business in 1981 and he was there for nearly 20 years.
He clearly doesn't pine for the advertising agency life, although he does stay in touch with the likes of Martin Boase and, of course, Frank Lowe. His departure from the agency was entirely planned and amicable and, in fact, he did a couple of years' consultancy before cutting the ties in 2000. At that point, a natural cycle seemed to have been completed. "When Lowe merged with Lintas it seemed an opportune time because in 1965 I had started at Lintas as a trainee," he recalls.
And actually, though he's no longer in agency management, he hasn't entirely lost touch with the media and advertising world. He's a non-executive director of Chrysalis Group and the chairman of Creativebrief, an agency-client marriage-agency website set up by two other Lowe Group ex-lags, Tom Holmes and David Jones.
The website enables agencies to showcase their work and credentials to prospective clients.
Advertisers can use the site's interrogation toll to quiz agencies without revealing their identity.
So that, in a nutshell, is where he is now. Prosperous and busy and living happily in East Sheen. "I'd been in the business more than 30 years, which is frankly a long time to be doing anything, and it was always part of the plan to do something else - and having a business that wasn't a hobby or an excuse. I started 20 years ago with a share in a race horse and what I do now grew out of that. Breeding is absolutely fascinating," he says.
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