CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/LUCA LINDNER - Lindner's desire for success leads him to D'Arcy. Luca Lindner's move from Red Cell to D'Arcy shocked his staff, John Tylee writes

Luca Lindner's closest associates didn't know the secret that Red

Cell's chief executive was carrying with him as he jetted between Europe

and the US last week. Lindner's punishing schedule included finalising

an acquisition in New York, meeting executives of his Alfa Romeo client

in Milan and joining an agency budget meeting in Dusseldorf. It was

rigorous even by his standards but the Italian seemed to be following it

through with all his usual energy and enthusiasm.



Nothing in his behaviour had led his senior managers to believe that

this was to be Lindner's swansong. And nothing prepared them for the

shock they got from last week's Campaign front page which revealed that

their boss, widely tipped as a future chief of a major network within

Red Cell's WPP parent, had resigned.



After just nine months in charge of the fledgling Red Cell (and to the

considerable chagrin of WPP's chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell),

Lindner's ambition and impatience have tempted him to take a quicker

route to the top.



His choice is D'Arcy, where he is to become the London-based president

and chief executive of its Europe, Middle East and Africa operations.

With the job comes a seat on D'Arcy's worldwide board, an obvious

door-opener to even wider opportunities within the network's Bcom3

holding company.



His decision not only has deep personal significance but may have

profound implications for both the organisation he has left and the one

he's about to join.



For Red Cell, Lindner's departure is particularly problematic. The

fledgling operation, which links the former Conquest European network

with Singapore's Batey Advertising and Seattle's Cole & Weber, has been

busy defining its offer in the hope of attracting so-called challenger

brands and helping to fill the void between the giant multinationals and

independent hotshops.



Lindner, 41, has been its leading evangelist. Now, the network is

leaderless with no obvious successor and at a time when it is poised to

make a major acquisition in New York. The deal with the as yet

undisclosed agency is said to owe much to the rapport Lindner has built

with its principals.



John Wringe, Red Cell's chief operating officer and Lindner's deputy, is

well regarded for the account handling skills he honed at Cogent and

Publicis, but isn't regarded as a successor. The upshot may be that

Sorrell will look outside or, perhaps, offer the job to the head of the

US shop about to enter the Red Cell fold.



"It's a real blow and people feel let down," a Red Cell source

confides.



"And you can bet Sorrell is taking this deeply personally."



Others, though, profess surprise only at the timing of Lindner's

departure rather than the resignation itself. The Milan-born executive,

who rose to power on the back of Red Cell's Alfa Romeo core client,

combines a sharp intellect with restless ambition.



He has a reputation as being notoriously difficult to work for - his PAs

rarely remain more than a few months - and for possessing a volcanic

Latin temper. Associates speak of his need to be constantly in charge

and of rows that see tables pounded by his fists but never end with

lingering grudges.



Those who know him believe his demeanour stems from being one of the few

admen to move beyond Italy's insular business world and stake his claim

on the global communications stage dominated by Anglo-US interests.



"It's made him even more ambitious," a colleague says. "He does not

believe he gets the respect his intellect deserves and always feels

people are talking down to him."



At D'Arcy, Lindner arrives with the advantage of long-standing and

high-level contacts at Fiat, Alfa Romeo's parent and a major D'Arcy

client. But he also knows that he must bring some synergy to a European

network which insiders agree has become far too disparate, has a pitiful

new-business record and seems to have lost the plot with Mars.



His appointment is seen as an acknowledgement by John Farrell, D'Arcy's

president and chief executive, and Susan Gianinno, the chief branding

officer, that Europe can't be run by remote control from across the

Atlantic.



Farrell is also keen to introduce more of the entrepreneurial culture

epitomised by Lindner. What's more, some industry sources believe the

D'Arcy chief can see parallels between Lindner's struggle to establish

himself and his own efforts to reach the top of the network from a

below-the-line background at IMP.



"Lindner's task will be to stop the offices operating autonomously and

improve a pathetic new-business performance," a former senior D'Arcy

executive says.



"He also has to decide what D'Arcy Europe stands for. It's no longer a

Premier League player but that's no reason why it can't be top of the

First Division by offering smaller clients the personalised service they

won't get from Interpublic and WPP."



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