Lowe plans HQ shift to London

Global network to relocate its powerbase following the exit of London chief executive Amanda Walsh.

Steve Gatfield, the Lowe Worldwide chief executive, is preparing to move the network's international headquarters to London following the departure of the Lowe London chief executive, Amanda Walsh.

Walsh's exit was confirmed to staff on Monday. She will not be replaced, but her duties will be split between the executive creative director, Ed Morris and the chief strategy officer, Rebecca Morgan.

At the same time, Gatfield and Tony Wright, the Lowe Worldwide chairman, will spend more time in London, which has already become an important hub as a result of the growth of new network clients based in Europe, such as Inbev, Unilever and Signal.

Walsh, whose departure was revealed exclusively by Campaign on Monday morning, ahead of the staff announcement, is credited with moving the agency back into profit. She was its fifth chief executive in as many years.

News of the changes emerge as Gatfield's contract with Lowe holding company Interpublic Group, which is due to expire in April 2009, enters its final year.

"My plans are to continue operating in the environment I'm currently operating in, but I haven't started to have those discussions with IPG yet," Gatfield said.

The move to increase London's prominence in the network has been brewing for 18 months, since Kevin Allen moved to the London-based role of Lowe Worldwide vice-chairman with a brief to strengthen Lowe's new business. The network is also said to be recruiting for London-based global finance, personnel and recruitment directors.

The increasing prominence of London's role in the network follows troubled times for the New York-based agency, which has lost a large portion of its General Motors business including Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Saab. Its chief executive, Nancy Hill, left in September.

- Perspective, p23

FIVE YEARS, FIVE CEOs

- Chris Thomas

March 2001 - March 2003

The former managing director replaced Paul Hammersley, but was ousted when the agency failed to appear on pitchlists.

- Matthew Bull

March 2003 - Jan 2005

Parachuted in to revive the agency's fortunes after several major account losses before being promoted to chief creative officer for the network.

- Garry Lace

Jan 2005 - May 2006

Lace's controversial 16-month tenure ended when he was suspected of having dealings with Sir Frank Lowe, the agency's ousted founder.

- Tony Wright

May 2006 - October 2006

Tony Wright became the caretaker chief executive while the agency was run day-to- day by the then managing director Chris Hunton and the chief marketing officer Judy Mitchem.

- Amanda Walsh

October 2006 - Feb 2008

Despite moving the agency into profit and landing accounts such as Beck's, Walsh's tenure ends this month and the agency is being placed in the hands of Steve Gatfield and Tony Wright.

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