Lowe & Partners/SMS is expected to fortify its top management team by bringing back former executive vice president Bruce Kelley and hiring a senior executive to oversee its flagship office here.
Kelley is expected to return to manage the North American operation, including Lowe’s below-the-line units, sources said. At the same time, Rob Quish, a worldwide account director at Ammirati Puris Lintas, is in line to run the New York office, sources said.
The two would replace Bob Kantor, the shop’s former U.S. president who left in December.
Lowe chairman Lee Garfinkel last week confirmed that a dual approach to filling the agency’s upper ranks is an option. Garfinkel described Kelley as a “leading contender” in his search, but stressed that no agreements have been reached.
“It’s one scenario that we’re considering, but it’s not the only scenario,” Garfinkel said. “We’re still talking to [a short list of] candidates, but we’ve made no final decision.”
Sources said that Kelley and Quish are in negotiations with Lowe and that a deal could be finalized as early as this week. “Those are the two guys,” one source said.
Garfinkel, 44, and vice chairman Gary Goldsmith, 44, began their search in November, two months before Kantor’s messy departure [Adweek, Jan. 11]. Rather than go back to the list it developed during its previous search, sources said the agency started from scratch.
“I’m a candidate,” Kelley said, confirming ongoing discussions with Garfinkel and Goldsmith. “We have talked extensively about scenarios of how it can work.”
According to sources, the plan calls for Garfinkel to remain chairman and creative torchbearer along with his No. 2 Gary Goldsmith. Kelley would be primarily involved in new business development and strategic operations. Quish would focus on day-to-day existing client needs and matters specific to the New York office and staff.
Kelley’s last stint at Lowe was as general manager, a post he initially shared with Paul Hammersley.
Kelley, 50, recently left the National Mall Network, a company he co-founded with Marvin Josephson in 1997. The partners were bought out by primary shareholder General Growth Properties in March.
Quish, who was on vacation last week and did not return calls, has worked at Ammirati since 1993. Last year, he became worldwide account director on the agency’s $150 million Iridium business.
Quish and Kelley haven’t worked together before, but Quish worked for Kelley’s wife while the two were at Doyle Dane Bernbach in the mid-1980s. Kelley was involved with the Procter & Gamble account at Wells Rich Greene at that time.
Politics and power struggles have made the president’s role difficult to fill in the past. John Hayes held the post for a few years before leaving in 1994 to take a global marketing post at American Express. He was followed by a co-general manager combination of Kelley and Hammersley. Hammersley eventually left to run the London office, while Kelleyremained until the National Mall Network opportunity surfaced.
While Marvin Sloves was serving as co-chairman alongside Garfinkel, his grip on the Mercedes account, Lowe’s biggest, diminished the importance and clout of other top managers.
Lee “needs a suit but he doesn’t want a suit that is going to challenge his authority,” said one source. ƒ
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