Yes, Amanda Walsh is out, with frightening predictability. Almost as soon as she arrived, rumours of her imminent demise began. The rumours didn't have much to do with Walsh's management style or abilities (she'd only been there an eye blink), but that's just the sort of thing that happens to Lowe, that's the sort of place it's become: the sort of agency where stability and absence of politics seem strangely elusive.
To me, all those rumours seemed ridiculous. Even if Walsh was the worst chief executive in the history of adland chiefs (and she wasn't), the agency simply couldn't afford another embarrassing failure, another public roasting over the quality of its network-management decision-making.
Walsh would have at least two years grace, probably three, I reckoned. After all, the agency was severely damaged when she took over; turnarounds from that sort of start take time and patience. And if Walsh was a disaster, surely she'd be quietly moved upstairs, to save face, not publicly junked so disruptively.
On that basis, you'd have to say that the decision to dump Walsh so soon is a pretty brave one. Steve Gatfield, Lowe's worldwide chairman, knows perfectly well what we'll say about her departure, how we'll highlight the ridiculous chopping and changing and the damaging instability.
Gatfield will also know the effect Walsh's departure will have on staff, even any that didn't much care for her: axing another chief will do nothing for their morale or their sense of security. Since he must know all of this, you have to believe that Gatfield felt he had no choice, don't you?
Even so, even so ... it seems the agency has had its fragile recovery snatched from it yet again. Walsh is said to have clawed the agency back into the black after fairly shocking losses, and those who know the company well say there was a better sense of confidence and contentment in the latter half of last year than there had been for a long, long time. As Gatfield says in the official press release: "Amanda joined Lowe with a brief to turn around the economics and put the agency on a growth track. Without question, Amanda has achieved that goal." In fact, word is that she's not leaving for another month or so and is being kept on to do the next budget round.
All of which begs the question, why is she going then? It's a question not answered in the release. What's also not answered is how the agency can run efficiently and effectively without a chief executive or managing director. Gatfield will spend more time "superintending" London and the executive creative director, Ed Morris, and the chief strategy officer, Rebecca Morgan, will now run the agency alongside the financial director, Ian Courts (whose name appears to have been hastily added to the press release at the last minute since it's in a different font to the rest of it).
Oh, I know the realities of agency networks these days mean that the local chiefs are denuded in the face of the big international account barons and network chiefs, but if ever there was an agency that required some careful management TLC, Lowe is it.
What now seems obvious is that Lowe's international headquarters will move to London, with the network's 36 core offices steered from here. There seems to be some concern about what Johnson & Johnson, a key client and one headquartered in America, will make of that, but emotionally it certainly seems like the right thing to do.
The agency's DNA was conceived in London and though a lot of water and tears have passed under the bridge since then, the London office is still a creative beacon and still capable of reigniting all that the Lowe brand once stood for.