Robin Kent, the worldwide chief executive of Universal McCann, has been relieved of his post and replaced by his chief operating officer, Murray Dudgeon, on an in-terim basis.
The news follows close on the heels of General Motors' decision to review its £1.5 billion US media account, held by Interpublic's General Motors Mediaworks, a division within Kent's remit. Interpublic plans to repitch for the business.
According to a statement, Kent has been moved from his position running the Universal network to work with John Dooner, the chief executive of McCann Worldgroup, on "special Interpublic projects", although insiders expect that he will not remain with the company for long. Dudgeon, a former European media director at Universal McCann, will fill the role until a successor is named.
Kent, who has been at Universal McCann since 1996, moved to New York in 2002 following a series of senior positions in Europe. He was named chairman and chief executive, but his future in charge of the network has recently been the subject of much speculation. There are rumours that Dooner had approached WPP senior managers, including the chief strategic officer of MindShare Worldwide, Nick Emery, to take over the running of Interpublic's media interests.
During Kent's tenure, the network has been hit by a series of account losses. In 2004, Universal lost more than $400 million in billings after losing out in a global Nestle consolidation.
Things had begun to improve, with McCann Worldgroup picking up Intel's advertising and media business two weeks ago, but the General Motors review has eclipsed this triumph.
The news hit IPG's share price, adding to the company's current financial woes. Interpublic has just revealed it will not be filing its financial results for 2004 on time and that it has uncovered $145 million in overstated revenues relating to acquisitions made between 1996 and 2001.
- Perspective, page 21.