Weeks-Long Lace Inquiry Continues

Lowe’s decision to suspend London CEO Garry Lace last week came weeks after the shop and parent Interpublic Group began probing allegations that Lace had a dialogue with Frank Lowe last year about the agency’s Tesco business, sources said. As such, the investigation may end sooner than the end of March—the time frame the agency gave Friday in a brief, vague statement about “certain matters that have come to the company’s attention.”

While it’s possible Lace could return, sources said it was unlikely, since he appeared to have lost the confidence of his superiors, including IPG. “There isn’t enough trust,” said a source. Some staffers also found him to be brusque, sources said. For now, London-based worldwide chairman Tony Wright and managing director Chris Hunton have absorbed his duties. Lace, who could not be reached, continues to be paid.

The Lace bombshell is but the latest drama surrounding the return of Frank Lowe, the former Lowe chairman who on Dec. 1 said he was opening a new shop. The same day, Lowe London chairman and top Tesco contact Paul Weinberger resigned to join him; on Dec. 5, Tesco reassigned its estimated $80 million account to the new agency, The Red Brick Road. In early January, the shop also made an unsuccessful run at Lowe London ecd Ed Morris, who stayed put thanks to a doubling of his salary, a signing bonus and the promise of getting his name on the door.