Lowe in talks to acquire DFGW

A deal would strengthen relations with General Motors and add weight to Lowe's management.

Lowe London is in early discussions with DFGW about acquiring the agency in a move that would shore up its senior management team and strengthen its credentials with General Motors.

The move, led by Lowe's chief executive, Garry Lace, would bring in DFGW's joint managing directors, Tom Vick and Hugh Cameron, strengthening Lowe's senior management line-up. Lowe has lost several managers during the past year, including the planning director, Russ Lidstone, and its new-business director, Matt Edwards.

The merger would also lend strength to Lowe's GM offer, as DFGW handles the Chevrolet (formerly Daewoo) account. Lowe has been losing significant slices of its GM-owned Vauxhall account to Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners for the past two years. Last week, DLKW won the pan-European relaunch brief for the Vectra marque.

The then Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters was launched 15 years ago. In 2003, one of its founders, Gary Duckworth, left the agency, and in July last year the agency underwent a restructure. This saw Paul Grubb, the joint creative director, leave and the agency rebrand as DFGW. Michael Finn, its chief executive, also took a back seat. Cameron and Vick took more high-profile roles, while Dave Waters became the sole creative head.

In 2004, DFGW's billings fell by 39 per cent to slightly more than £20 million. Its main clients are the BBC and COI Communications.

Most of the agency's equity is held by Finn and Waters, with the rest held by its current senior directors. The agency is known to have had talks with other potential buyers in the past few months.

Lowe lost considerable business in 2004, mainly owing to international realignments by clients including Braun, Unilever and Coca-Cola.

Lace was brought in at the beginning of this year to turn around the fortunes of Lowe's London agency. He has since appointed Chris Hunton its managing director and Judy Mitchem its chief marketing officer. The team has yet to land any new business.

Tony Wright, the president and chief executive of Lowe Worldwide, said: "We have tremendous respect for the people at DFGW and their work, but can't comment on any specific discussions at this time."

Comment, page 44.