Then, Howell was handed the less-than-coveted task of sorting out Eastern Europe for the network. An additional role - overseeing the General Motors account - was considered by some colleagues as a sop.
But Howell has again proved he should not be underestimated. There have clearly been strenuous internal politics at play, but with this week's news that David Warden, the European regional director, is set to retire, Howell's position seems more secure than ever (page 1).
There remain those at the network who believe Howell is not in the McCann mould; that his style and personality do not suit the McCann machine. They may be right, but, in the UK, at least, this is no disadvantage. And while Howell still has much to prove in the UK and cannot afford to take his eye off the home ball in favour of European pressures, it appears those who felt his McCann days were numbered will have to reconsider.