VERBAL VOLLEYS FLY AS KANTOR EXITS LOWE AFTER 5 MONTHS: AGENCY IN NO HURRY TO FIND REPLACEMENT FOR EX-PRESIDENT

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In the end, the chemistry just wasn't there. Less than five months after Robert Kantor took the helm as president of Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, he was gone.

From early in his tenure, employees never warmed up to the former Publicis chairman-CEO, according to people familiar with the situation.

Still, Mr. Kantor's departure was more Peyton Place than commonplace. It began last Wednesday at high noon, when Mr. Kantor sent out his own resignation letter on Lowe letterhead.

In the release, he shared a few tart remarks about Lowe, referring to the agency as a "terrific creative boutique struggling to get to the next level." He continued: "I want to work with a team that has the vision and dedication to create a great agency."

Mr. Kantor said he was moving to a new organization, as yet undisclosed.

NO COMMENT AT FIRST

Apparently unaware of Mr. Kantor's press release, the agency at first declined an official comment. Within hours, however, Chairman-Chief Creative Officer Lee Garfinkel was on the phone confirming Mr. Kantor's departure and casting the decision as one made "in the best interest of the agency."

The following day, in talking about the search for a replacement, Mr. Garfinkel added, "We're looking for a president who is hands-on like we [Mr. Garfinkel and Gary Goldsmith, vice chairman-executive creative director] are. We're not looking for a president interested in the trappings of the position.

"We're also looking for someone that knows how to nurture relationships with people -- employees as well as clients."

PERSONALITY CONFLICTS

Those close to the situation say they were not surprised, adding that personality conflicts were apparent soon after Mr. Kantor was hired in August.

Mr. Garfinkel said the renewed search for a president is not a pressing one. Lowe was without a president for four years before Mr. Kantor's arrival. In that time, Mr. Garfinkel and Marvin Sloves ran the agency as co-chairmen. Mr. Sloves stepped down from that post to take a consulting role beginning Jan. 1.

Mr. Garfinkel would not comment specifically on employee and client reaction to the departure, except to say, "Everybody is quite satisfied with the

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