Nick Bell, the executive creative director of JWT, has been forced to leave the agency.
The shock news comes after a difficult 12 months for JWT, in which it has lost the large-scale Vodafone and Reckitt Benckiser accounts.
Bell exited the agency on Friday. The decision to remove him was made by Craig Davis, the JWT global creative director, and its executive chairman, Toby Hoare.
It is speculated that Bell's inability to bend to Davis' plans for the creative department, including a restructure and the expansion of its digital offering, had led to friction between the pair.
Hoare said: "Nick is great at what he does, but he is not a plate spinner who can handle a number of tasks at once. He doesn't have the skills for where JWT is looking to go, and where a forward-thinking agency needs to be."
Surprisingly, the decision was not led by Alison Burns, the agency's chief executive, who has worked very closely with Bell since joining the struggling agency in February last year.
"We had hoped Alison would be able to bring Nick on when she started. She now really has to come out fighting and raise her image in the industry," Hoare added.
The news surprised many at JWT, as the London agency, despite losing business, had improved its showing in the 2006 Gunn Report; the agency was seventh in the most-awarded agencies list.
Hoare admitted: "Some of the creatives will probably feel burnt by this decision."
He added that they were not yet talking to anybody with regards to replacing Bell: "We'll be letting the air settle with a period of calm. Then, we'll have some restructuring to do; then, we'll cast our eye around."
Bell, who did not wish to comment, joined JWT from Leo Burnett almost four years ago. He was hired by the London office's former chief executive, Simon Bolton.
At Burnett, he had earned a reputation for producing award-winning work on large, demanding accounts, including McDonald's and Heinz.
One of Bell's former colleagues said: "The creative community respects Nick a hell of a lot for his drive and integrity, and are shocked he's gone. He made JWT's work much better and built a stronger, loyal department."
- Perspective, page 19
- Comment, page 40.