Timeline: The Life of United

Agency's 19-Year Existence Marked by Instability

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Created by WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell to house a conflict account, United began as European shop Conquest. Even in the late 1990s, the vision was to build something small with a focus on creativity. Conquest and its successors hung on to that initial account, Alfa Romeo, until late last year, when it was shifted to sibling Young & Rubicam. With its original raison d'etre eliminated, United is still struggling to define itself, and its future hinges on the commitment of one man: Martin Sorrell. Here's a look at the life of United:

1988: WPP sets up Milan-based Conquest Europe to handle Fiat's Alfa Romeo account and avoid conflict with WPP's Ford business Luca Lindner becomes CEO in 1994.

2000: WPP adds U.S. agency Cole & Weber and Singapore-based Batey Ads to Conquest Europe.

2001: Conquest is rebranded as global network Red Cell, led by Mr. Lindner.

2002: Mr. Lindner leaves. WPP acquires Berlin Cameron & Partners, New York and adds the agency to the Red Cell network. Lee Daley joins as co-CEO and chief strategy officer. Rebuilding London becomes a priority.

2003: WPP buys 49% of the U.K.'s once-hot HHCL agency for Red Cell in London.

2004: Mr. Daley leaves in January; Laurence Mellman, formerly chief operating officer of WPP's International Specialist Communications, joins Red Cell as chief operating officer. Amanda Walsh, formerly of Walsh Trott Chick Smith, joins in May to run Red Cell in Europe.

2005: WPP rebrands Red Cell as the Voluntarily United Group of Creative Agencies, pared to nine offices around the world. Chairman-CEO Andy Berlin calls it "not a network."

2006: Ms. Walsh leaves; United's Alfa Romeo business shifts to WPP's Y&R.

2007: Discussions are held about moving United London's eight remaining clients and staff to Grey Worldwide's Grey London or Wunderman. A move to Grey is likely. Mr. Berlin's contract will be up in December.
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