David Bell (62), the driving force behind True North Communications before its acquisition in June 2001 by Interpublic Group, has quit his role as IPG co-chairman alongside chairman/ceo Michael I Roth.

In a seemingly routine exit deal, Bell assumes the honorary title of chairman emeritus and will "maintain a consulting relationship" with IPG - an arrangement that serves the dual purpose of ring-fencing him from competitors and keeping him onside if and when needed.

Bell stepped into the driving seat at IPG in 2003, when the group was at its nadir after major accounting problems led to a (still ongoing) investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bell came fresh to the job of chairman/ceo, unencumbered by the baggage associated with IPG's accounting debacle. As the former boss of True North, purchased by IPG two years earlier, he was known for his charisma and winning way with clients, investors and colleagues.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Bell's charm helped Interpublic deal with investors as the company divested itself of poorly performing assets. However, his "unavailability" for comment on the eve of his departure left eyebrows arched among some media onlookers

Bell's exit leaves Roth uncontested boss of the world's third largest agency group. He is due to report IPG's fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday and present the group's new strategic plan to an investor meeting on March 27.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff