WPP Group on Tuesday vigorously denied - albeit off the record - that its flagship network J Walter Thompson is on the verge of bidding adieu to the Ford Motor Company, whose business has been handled by the agency for over fifty years.

Triggering the rumours that swept Wall Street and London EC2 was Monday’s abrupt departure from JWT’s Detroit office of executive vp and global business director Mike O’Malley. The news clipped 2.25% from WPP’s share price in London, which closed £0.0924 down on Tuesday at £3.9025 ($6.20; €5.65).

O’Malley, number two in the pecking order on the Ford biz joined JWT two years ago after a thirteen year stint with General Motors. In the hours following his shock exit, the grapevine was abuzz with tales of a major dispute between client and agency.

Not so, say WPP insiders. And emphatically not so, they insist, is the possibility of a fatal rift with Ford.

London-based Sean Neall, currently with JWT sibling shop Ogilvy & Mather, is tipped to succeed O’Malley.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff