Andrew Robertson, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's chief executive, is being lined up for a top BBDO job in New York, precipitating a management reshuffle at the UK's largest agency.
Group sources say that Robertson, 40, will leave for the US later this year in a move that could lead to one of the most senior jobs at BBDO Worldwide.
Robertson is understood to have had conversations with BBDO chiefs about a senior management role in the US although no specific job title has been discussed.
Robertson said: 'I see my future within BBDO and with no other company and I want to develop my career with it. But if the question is am I going to New York to replace anybody, the answer is no.'
His departure could cause a hiatus at the agency, which has always prided itself on the smoothness of its management succession.
Potential external replacements may be on a six-month notice period and insiders say that Cilla Snowball, AMV's managing director, may not yet have the experience to take on the role.
Although she has been at the agency since 1992, her recent promotion has been rapid, rising from head of client services to managing director in less than a year.
Chris Thomas, the managing director of Lowe Lintas, Campaign's Agency of the Year, is believed to be one name on AMV's wanted list.
A former head of new business and Volvo group account director at AMV, Thomas left to become managing director of the then Ammirati Puris Lintas in August 1997. Since then, AMV chiefs have made no secret of their high regard for him and how much they would like him to return.
Network sources say the strength of its senior management would allow the agency to bridge the gap left by Robertson. However, others believe that Michael Baulk, the group chairman who also heads BBDO's European network, could assume the role of chief executive in a caretaker capacity until a permanent replacement is found.
An insider said: 'To speculate that Robertson will go to the US is fair and reasonable but it's too early to talk about succession. The matter has not been addressed because there's still a lot of time.'
Reports of Robertson going to the US are bound to fuel speculation that a successful period in a senior role there could mark him out as a possible successor to Allen Rosenshine, 61, BBDO's worldwide chairman, who is set to retire within the next few years.