Lowe London departures stack up as Matthew Bull plans return to South Africa

LONDON - Matthew Bull, chief creative officer at Lowe, is to leave his global role and return to his native South Africa, although he will remain with Lowe.

Bull will return to South Africa next summer to take up the reins once again at Lowe Bull, the agency he co-founded. However, he will retain a role at Lowe Worldwide, leading the global creative efforts for one of the agency's major clients, believed to be Stella Artois.

His departure comes amid a number of senior defections at Lowe London, following the revelation that Sir Frank Lowe, the founder of the agency, was starting up a new business. That new agency, as yet unnamed, has nabbed the £45m Tesco account, and now counts Paul Weinberger, former chairman of Lowe, among its staff.

Bull has been based in London with his family since 2003, when he was appointed to the chief executive role of Lowe London. But earlier this year, following the loss of a number of accounts at the agency, a shake-up of senior management by worldwide CEO Tony Wright saw Bull replaced by Garry Lace. He then took up the chief creative officer role.

He is known to have close ties with Sir Frank Lowe, who bought a stake in the agency then known as Bull Calvert Pace in 1996, as well as Weinberger, and was rumoured at one point to have been joining them at the start-up.

"Going back to my own company, my first love, it was always on the cards. The plan was always to spend about three years here," Bull said.

He added that Lowe Bull was still very much part of the Lowe network and that it was in his best interests to see it continue and prosper. Bull and his partners in South Africa between them own almost 70% of Lowe Bull. The agency has 150 staff and offices in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

Bull has a reputation for being no-nonsense, and his time in London has made a great impression on the industry. He became famous for his straightforward manner, as well as stunts such as removing the doors from the offices of Lowe's senior management.

While Lowe has been through a rough period in terms of account losses, the irony is that the quality of its work has never been questioned. It continues to produce award-winning work for Stella Artois, and its post-Dolly advertising for Tesco is widely admired.

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