The youngest chief executive ever in the venerable history of J Walter Thompson, New York, has resigned with immediate effect citing health problems.

Chris Jones (45) has been absent from the office on sick leave since the start of the year. He has undergone two recent bouts of illness – eye surgery in 1999 followed by the removal of a blood clot from his leg in March 2000.

Jones’ resignation follows “three years of terrific financial performance", according to his successor, incumbent JWT president Peter A Schweitzer (61). "The biggest job is going to be `steady as she goes,' " said Schweitzer, who will also continue in his presidential role as front man on JWT's key Ford business.

He insists that his new appointment is not a stopgap measure. "In no way, shape or form is it on a temporary or limited or interim basis," asserts Schweitzer, adding that he will serve for "as long as I'm useful."

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell paid a curiously restrained tribute to Jones: "[He] has made a lasting contribution to JWT. We will miss him greatly, and we wish him every good fortune.” Some observers find it odd that Sorrell omitted to add his good wishes for a speedy return to health.

According the New York Times: “Sir Martin … has a reputation for holding his senior managers to high levels of performance and carefully monitoring their progress — or lack thereof.

News source: New York Times