United London's long ties with Alfa Romeo are set to be severed as the Italian car manufacturer plots a move out of the United Network.
WPP is understood to be in talks with the company with a view to keeping its £50 million pan-European account within the network. The holding company is said to be looking at a "Team Alfa" solution, along the same lines as the "Team Sky" proposal currently being made to BSkyB.
Young & Rubicam's European chairman and chief executive, Massimo Costa, is understood to have been leading negotiations with the car manufacturer about a possible solution. However, Y&R's handling of the Ford-owned Land Rover account means the business will not be housed at that network.
Alfa Romeo was a founding client at Conquest, the WPP network formed in 1988, which was rebranded as Red Cell in 2001 and again as United in 2005.
The brand's departure will leave question-marks hanging over the future of the network - the account is the only one shared between agencies in the group.
Despite the fact that the manufacturer hasn't used United agencies for its recent launches, it is understood to favour a network solution to its European advertising.
Alfa Romeo's recent marketing activity has seen the Fiat-owned manufacturer approach a number of non-roster agencies for key product launches.
In February, Krow won the launch of the Alfa Romeo Brera coupe in the UK. The start-up, launched by the former D'Arcy team of John Quarrey, Barry Cook, Malcolm White and Nick Hastings, beat Mother and United London to the business in a pitch called in January.
Last year, the Alfa 159 was launched on the back of a campaign created by Armando Testa, while the relaunch of the Alfa 147 is based on a creative idea from Saffirio Tortelli Vigoriti.
United London declined to comment on the story. Neither Y&R nor Alfa Romeo returned calls.