PERSPECTIVE: Walker’s success at Zenith will be a tough act to follow

It’s hard to say what caused the greater stir around town: news of Kevin Keegan’s resignation last week or Monday’s bombshell about Christine Walker, chief executive of Zenith Media. Not knowing exactly why she resigned made the comparison seem apt. Friends and rivals alike - tellingly, in Walker’s case, they are often one and the same - sought clarification.

It’s hard to say what caused the greater stir around town: news of

Kevin Keegan’s resignation last week or Monday’s bombshell about

Christine Walker, chief executive of Zenith Media. Not knowing exactly

why she resigned made the comparison seem apt. Friends and rivals alike

- tellingly, in Walker’s case, they are often one and the same - sought

clarification.



However, as with Keegan, no-one but the principal really knows the whole

story (see page 4).



She will be a huge loss to Zenith. No-one has epitomised a brand more

than she. No-one works harder, with more energy and commitment. Her

clients absolutely adore her to a degree that seems unmatched by anyone

else in the business. So do most of the agency chiefs with whom she has

worked.



Simply put, she’s the best around.



It’s true that Walker has been involved in some spectacular rows over

the years. I myself have heard what can only be described as a touch of

menace in her voice. It’s fair to say that she has had a lively

relationship with Campaign and other media, but primarily it’s because

she has been absolutely fixated on getting Zenith the best possible

press, and getting the best deal - in every case - for her clients.



Some of the flak she’s taken is unquestionably down to her being a

woman.



She gives some of the pompous and boorish men in the media industry more

than a run for their money - and not all of them like it. Refreshingly,

like Keegan, she did not always hide her emotions and human foibles. She

is all the more to be admired because she had no role model.



Like Keegan too, there has been much speculation about her private life

and personal motivation for leaving. It’s all just that -

speculation.



What we do know is that she has been very loyal to Zenith. She could

have named her job, but chose to stay during the difficult days of the

old Saatchi and Saatchi group, and then stuck by Cordiant after the

Maurice debacle. Resigning to contemplate her options would be true to

form. For once, it would not be a euphemism.



She has been linked with several jobs, most intriguingly to run the

merged WPP media operation once Martin Sorrell has his way. But she

could equally well run a major media owner. The one doubt ever raised

about Walker to my knowledge is whether she would ’travel well’ and

succeed abroad. I would never bet against her.



Zenith will now find out just how much of a personality-based business

media really is. As for Walker, no-one knows what she is going to

do.



I wouldn’t blink if she succeeded Keegan at Newcastle. I only know she

will do it well and whatever it may be, I wish the First Lady of British

advertising every success.



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