Opinion: Perspective - The Lowe heritage needs protecting at all costs

These days, if you want to come across as honest to your investors, it seems the best thing to do is publicly launch an investigation into your company's internal affairs.

Sir Martin Sorrell's doing it in Italy. For a couple of weeks last month, we were greeted almost daily with new details of WPP's investigation into the practices of its Italian operation. By leading the investigations, WPP not only comes out looking whiter than white to its shareholders, it also retains control of exactly what the investigation uncovers.

It seems IPG is now taking a leaf out of Sorrell's book. It has suspended Garry Lace, the chief executive of its London operation, "in order to pursue an internal investigation into certain matters".

In the old days, before shareholders around the world began questioning corporate governance, such an investigation would have been a private affair. After all, what if he is found innocent? IPG will have needlessly let everyone see its dirty laundry.

Bearing this in mind, I'd be stunned if IPG finds Lace innocent. The holding company is looking into what was discussed in a meeting between Lace, Sir Frank Lowe and Paul Weinberger late last summer. Was Lace approached by Sir Frank, or did he do the approaching? Was a Tesco breakaway the subject of discussion?

If so, did Lace inform his bosses that it was?

It's only week two of Steve Gatfield's tenure at the top of the Lowe network. He has acted swiftly to remove Lace from his responsibilities. This is another handy characteristic of the investigation route; it enabled an immediate suspension.

The speed with which he has acted suggests there may be some urgent problems to address. When Tony Wright, the then newish global head of the Lowe network, handed Lace the reins of the London agency 13 months ago, many eyebrows headed skyward. Not only had Lace left Grey in controversial circumstances, his boisterous personality seemed at odds with that of the understated Lowe.

Nevertheless, Lace inherited a set of clients who had bought the Lowe culture. That culture has slowly been eroded, as more and more of Lowe's old guard has left. Vince Squibb, Paul Weinberger and the Tesco account were keystones of that culture. This change in the personality of the agency will no doubt have contributed to the difficult conversations it has been having with its crucial Stella Artois client.

Lowe's share of the UK market has been shrinking for some time now. Billings fell by 8.5 per cent in 2005. If Gatfield wants to rescue the agency, he's going to have to protect its heritage.

There goes another one. The Telegraph Group parted with Sarah Sands, the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, earlier this week. She is the third national newspaper editor within a year to leave the group, having only assumed the editorship eight months ago.

Her replacement, Patience Wheatcroft, joins from The Times, where she was the business and City editor. Wheatcroft is well regarded in business circles, which is no doubt how she came to the attention of the Telegraph Group proprietors Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay.

It seems that the Barclay brothers have a penchant for hiring the business journalists with whom they have built professional relationships over the years. Wheatcroft follows the appointments at The Daily Telegraph last year of the former BBC business editor Jeff Randall and the former Sunday Times business editor Will Lewis.

Market-leading business coverage is a powerful asset for any paper. But those who shed an editor only eight months after appointing her deserve to have their judgment questioned. Does Wheatcroft's no-nonsense business background signal that management is backtracking on the feminine positioning Sands was briefed to build?

- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.

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