Garfinkel to Exit Lowe Lintas

Lee Garfinkel’s eight-year run as chief creative officer at Lowe Lintas & Partners is coming to an end. Garfinkel, who was promoted to CEO just seven months ago, is expected to leave the agency within weeks, sources said.

Garfinkel, 45, has several op-tions, including an offer to stay within the IPG family, run-ning his own spinoff boutique, according to sources. While that appeared to be the likeliest outcome late last week, he could still leave outright or join another shop.

Executives from the Lowe Group are looking to relieve Gar-finkel of his CEO-related administrative chores while retaining him as a creative talent, sources said.

Garfinkel could not be reached and Lowe executives declined comment.

His departure from Lowe Lintas will leave chairman and chief creative officer Gary Goldsmith with sole responsibility of the creative output of the $1.7 billion U.S. agency. Goldsmith, 46, has been courted by other shops, and his ascension to the top creative post is expected to provide an additional reason for him to stay, said sources. Goldsmith also was promoted last summer, from vice chairman and executive creative director to chairman and chief creative officer. Garfinkel carries the third title of chairman.

Since early 1999, the agency formerly known as Lowe & Partners/SMS has suffered the loss of its prized Mercedes account, installed new management executives and undertaken a global merger with fellow IPG shop Ammirati Puris Lintas. Garfinkel has been at the center of it all, including a protracted legal battle over Mercedes with former agency chairman Marvin Sloves, which was settled out of court.

That battle and last year’s ongoing struggle to retain clients may have taken its toll on Garfinkel, whom colleagues have described as less visible and accessible lately. Still, the agency produced solid work last year for the likes of GMC, UPS and Hein-eken—Garfinkel’s pet account.

Garfinkel is poised to leave just weeks after Bruce Kelley left his post as U.S. president [Adweek, Dec. 11]. Collectively, the moves are designed to stabilize an operation that has lost business (Burger King, Sun Microsystems) and seeks to refocus on growth. Jon Didier