J. Walter Thompson is in advanced talks with Simon Bolton, FCB San Francisco's chief executive, about the top job at JWT London.
Executives close to the negotiations confirmed that Bolton has been courted by JWT since before Christmas and that a contract is expected to be signed early next week.
The post has been vacant since the departure last October of the previous chief executive Stephen Carter. Carter is now chief operating officer at the cable TV and telecoms operator ntl - one of JWT London's biggest clients.
Tim Davis, the agency's chairman and global head on its Unilever and Shell business, has been in charge of the agency as an interim measure, while a number of other candidates from the UK were considered.
Bolton started his career as a graduate trainee at Ogilvy & Mather in London where he rose to the top job on the global Amex account - a role that involved managing a massive integrated communications budget.
He left O&M for FCB where he was managing director of FCB Malaysia and regional director for FCB Asia. In December 1998 he was appointed to the managing director's post at FCB San Francisco, which has long been positioned as the creative jewel in FCB's network. He was made chief executive in December last year, succeeding Geoff Thompson who became chairman of the San Francisco office and continues as FCB's worldwide creative director.
Bolton, who is 42, is highly rated at FCB for his team-building skills, his determined pursuit of new business and his understanding of brands and creativity. He stabilised and grew FCB's Malaysia agency, which lost its key Colgate account shortly before he joined. He moved to FCB San Francisco, a dollars 1 billion-plus billings shop, soon after it had been rocked by losing its dollars 90 million flagship Levi Strauss US account to TBWA/Chiat Day after 68 years. Working with Thompson, Bolton hired Rooney Carruthers from WCRS as the shop's executive creative director, briefing him to 'get FCB back into the A-league of creativity'.
JWT's European chief executive, Michael Madel, said: 'Throughout our search for the chief executive of London, I have always refused to comment on speculation and I will continue this course of action until a contract has been signed and a contract has not been signed.'