Media groups vie to lure Walker

A queue of media owners is believed to be lining up to talk to Christine Walker, following the announcement of her resignation as chief executive of Zenith Media.

BSkyB is known to have wanted to employ her for some time, but a number of other prospective employers are also interested.

It is thought unlikely that she will join rival network WPP, which has made approaches to her in the past. It is understood WPP wanted her to run its proposed merger of

J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather’s media operations.

A move to WPP would also cause Walker contractual problems with her parent network Cordiant.

Walker resigned in November and may stay with the media giant for another few months.

“I am taking this opportunity to clear my mind,” she says and declines to comment on her future plans. The separation is amicable and has been prompted by Walker’s desire for a fresh challenge. However, she has clashed with Cordiant’s senior management in the past.

Walker is not thought to have signed up with any other company. Sources close to her believe Carlton Communications and Time Warner would also be interested in employing her.

She denies speculation that she plans a career break. “I have never taken any breaks,” she says.

Walker will be replaced by Graham Duff, current joint managing director of Zenith. This leaves Andy Tilley, Zenith’s planning head, as sole managing director. Duff has appointed Tim Greatrex, broadcast director, as deputy managing director and Tom George, a TV group director, as broadcast director.

Duff says there will be no restructuring “job-title frenzy” at Zenith, but has hinted at more joint ventures and brand extensions.

“We are looking at how we operate in the market,” he says. “You have seen the first of it with Zebra Media, (Zenith’s joint venture media shop owned with Leagas Shafron Davis) and the launch of Zenith Direct.”

Steve King, former managing director of Zenith UK and currently running Zenith’s US operations, has in the past been tipped for a senior role in the UK but is now staying on in the US. Zenith has yet to make a decision about the position of chairman Derek Southon, who will decide whether to retire at the end of 1997.

Zenith claims its clients have taken the news well. But Walker’s client contacts were very strong and a number of rival agencies see her departure as an opportunity to start stalking them.

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