The naming of Bob Kantor as U.S. president of Lowe & Partners/SMS leaves the successor to co-chairman Marvin Sloves as the final question mark in the agency's senior management lineup.
Kantor, previously Publicis in New York's chief executive, will report to both Sloves and Lee Garfinkel, co-chairman and chief creative officer. He will be based at Lowe in New York starting Aug. 17 and will oversee the $750 million agency, which also has an office in San Francisco.
But Kantor's appointment does not necessarily make him the heir apparent to Sloves, 64, whose retirement and succession plan have been the source of much speculation. "For the moment, I'm Lee's partner," Sloves said last week, noting Kantor will be the agency's top account manager.
Another scenario has Sloves easing off his duties by the end of the year, with Garfinkel, 43, taking over full responsibilities, sources said. Sloves could remain as a consultant to capitalize on his close relationships with clients such as Mercedes-Benz, which recently merged with Chrysler.
Kantor's reputation as a champion of the creative product along with his experience on the BMW account were key factors in his hiring, said Sloves. "There is no other big creative agency that can challenge Lee and his team," said Kantor, 41, as to why he accepted Lowe's offer.
"Bob has a good sense of what makes good creative, and he knows how to recognize it," said Tony DeGregorio, president of Publicis' New York office. Kantor joined that shop in 1995. Earlier, he ran the Reebok account at the former Chiat/Day in New York.
Kantor replaces John Hayes, who left Lowe in 1994 to become head of global advertising at American Express. In 1995, Bruce Kelley and Paul Hammersley were named co-general managers and executive vice presidents of the New York office amid speculation one of them would eventually get the vacant presidency.
Hammersley left to help run Lowe's London operations, while Kelley left to become president of the National Mall Network. --with Sloane Lucas