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Reemergence of agency founder
Mr. Gatfield, recently promoted to exec VP-strategy and network operations at the holding company level, will have added to his responsibilities an informal oversight role at Lowe, which for years has been struggling with client losses, management turmoil and, most recently, the re-emergence of founder Frank Lowe, who walked off with the agency’s Tesco business in Europe where he is opening his own agency.
Mr. Gatfield, a former Leo Burnett executive, will be expected to aide Worldwide CEO Tony Wright, who was brought in from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather in November 2004 to help right the network. But insiders said that the business of running an agency, particularly such a troubled one, doesn’t play to the strong suits of Mr. Wright, a highly regarded planner.
Mr. Gatfield will take over some of the day-to-day operations of the network, while Mr. Wright will focus on client issues. Insiders say it’s unclear whether Mr. Gatfield’s role at Lowe will be formalized and it’s likely he will retain a corporate Interpublic role as well.
Sometime before its March 27 investors meeting, Interpublic is expected to release another turnaround plan for Lowe, likely to involve a smaller number of offices. Lowe recently has suffered from account losses from Unilever and Tesco and, in the U.S., Federated Department Stores’ Macy’s.
Mr. Gatfield’s name has surfaced before in relation to Interpublic agencies, particularly FCB and Lowe.
Messrs. Wright and Gatfield could not immediately be reached for comment.