John Banks is set to enter the final phase of an advertising career stretching back 40 years by quitting as the leader of FCB London.
Industry sources claim he will step down as the chairman and chief executive of the agency in June. This is a month before he reaches 60, which is the customary retirement age for senior managers at Interpublic Group operating companies.
However, Banks insisted this week that he was having no more than "gentle chats" with FCB's worldwide boss, Brendan Ryan, and IPG's co-chairman David Bell.
"Whether I stay or not is still up in the air," he said. "It could be that I'll stay on but perhaps in a less demanding role. Whatever happens, I won't retire. I'd go mad."
Speculation about the future of Banks comes after what has been a difficult year for FCB, which saw the departure of two major accounts - Weetabix and Waitrose - which between them billed £18 million.
Banks had enjoyed a particularly strong relationship with the Weetabix senior management since the account's arrival in 2001.
Recognised as one of the industry's shrewdest deal-makers, Banks built a reputation as a key figure of the adland establishment. His status was reflected in his appointment last year as the president of Nabs, the advertising industry charity, and his name has often been mentioned as a potential candidate for the IPA presidency.
Nevertheless, Banks has not shirked drastic change when necessary. When he became concerned at FCB's lack of profile in a fiercely competitive market, he instituted a radical restructuring in 2003 which saw the arrival of Jonathan Rigby from Lowe as the managing director and HHCL/Red Cell's Al Young as the creative chief.
Although IPG normally retires its senior staff at 60, the rule is not set in stone. Ryan, FCB's worldwide chief executive, is 63, while Harry Reid, the FCB president, was 62 when he retired last year.
- Comment p48
THE BANKS FILE
1945: Born in London
1965: Joins Coleman Prentice & Varley as graduate trainee
1968: Switches to Leo Burnett
1975: Hired by Ogilvy & Mather, serving as account director, board
director and new-business director. Put in charge of flagship Ford
1983: Moves to Young & Rubicam as group chairman and chief executive and
1987: Named Y&R international chairman. Appointed to worldwide board
1991: Launches Banks Partnership, which evolves into Banks Hoggins
1998: Sells agency to FCB. Chairman and chief executive of Banks Hoggins
2002: Appointed IPA secretary
2004: Becomes Nabs president