It’s often said that the advertising business is all about relationships. But what happens when those relationships turn sour?Here are 10 huge fights, all involving CEOs—such as WPP’s Martin Sorrell and Deutsch’s Donny Deutsch—where the hatchets remain unburied.
Some are just petty. In others, like those involving Walmart’s Julie Roehm and Lowe Worldwide’s Frank Lowe, huge sums of money were lost.
Julie Roehm, Walmart's former advertising chief, was fired in 2006 after she was seen sitting in the lap of an exec at ad agency DraftFCB, which had paid for a $2,000 dinner at New York's trendy Nobu restaurant.
Walmart had hired Roehm to bring some rock 'n' roll to the conservative company, but Roehm's antics--the bottle-blonde once wore leather pants while pregnant--was too much for the retailer.
Roehm then sued the company claiming wrongful dismissal. She also claimed Walmart CEO Lee Scott took gifts from vendors including a number of yachts and a large pink diamond. The suit was eventually dropped.
The years-long rancor between WPP chief Sorrell and Publicis boss Levy is easily the most colourful fight in advertising. The pair never tire of needling each other.
In the past, Sorrell has called Levy an 'amateur,' 'callous,' and 'hysterically funny.' In return, Levy has called Sorrell 'a little Englishman trying to stir things up' and 'totally wrong' on corporate strategy issues. (The 'little' barb was likely deliberate--Sorrell stands 5'4'.)
More recently, in February, Sorrell's people were so angered by growth claims made by Levy that they put together a slide-by-slide rebuttal to Publicis' 2011 full year results.
Once upon a time, Peter Arnell was one of the most sought-after brand aesthetes in New York. Then his ego got the better of him. He wrote a book about how he eats 50 oranges a day and was crowned one of New York's worst bosses by Gawker.
After a string of bad calls--his Tropicana makeover was met with universal revulsion and had to be reversed by PepsiCo, for instance--Omnicom ousted him from the agency he built, Arnell Group. To make matters worse, they replaced him with his wife, Sarah. Awkward!
Arnell then sued Omnicom, demanding the company return to him his collection of vintage books and movie memorabilia. The suit was settled this year.
Everyone knows Donny Deutsch, founder of Deutsch Inc., who later became a host on CNBC. Few, however, remember his nasty dispute with his cofounder, Steven Dworin, or even that until 1994 the agency was called Deutsch Dworin.
Dworin accused Deutsch of lying to clients about the size of his agency, ego mania, and of making 'frequent trips to the lavatory, emerging with constant sniffing, his occasional incoherence, and ... the people in and out of his office who were neither employees nor clients.' Dworin allegedly accused Deutsch of taking drugs.
Deutsch, of course, denied the claims. Most of the suit was tossed, except for some breach of contract claims.
Where to begin with Frank Lowe? He once spent £200,000 on a desk that couldn't fit into his office. His expenses and personal costs--wine cellar, etc--ran to $2.5 million a year.
In 1990, Lowe sold Lowe Worldwide to Interpublic Group, which attempted to impose some adult supervision.
It didn't take: Lowe built a massive sports marketing unit, Octagon, that was so dysfunctional it caused IPG to take a $286.9 million asset writedown in 2003. Lowe was ousted and founded a competing agency, taking one of IPG's major clients, Tesco, with him.
Robert Emmel was once a salesman at News Corp.'s coupons division, News America Marketing. He fell out with the company and walked out the door with a laptop full of News' internal documents--including information that the company was breaking the law by making millions in exclusivity payments to supermarkets in order to prevent rival coupon agencies from doing business with them.
Post publisher Paul Carlucci, who was also the CEO at News America, became his mortal enemy. News ended up paying more than $500 million in legal settlements based largely on evidence generated by Emmel.
News sued Emmel in turn for breach of fiduciary duty and the legal costs bankrupted Emmel.
Saatchi & Saatchi was founded in 1970 by two Iraqi Jewish emigrants to London, Maurice and Charles Saatchi. The brothers were ousted in 1995 in a boardroom coup. Furious, they formed a new shop, M&C Saatchi.
M&C Saatchi continues to compete with the original Saatchi. Most recently the two agencies represented opposite sides in the British general election.
When MDC's Miles Nadal tempted McCann president Lori Senecal (seen here in a screengrab from her Facebook page) to join Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners as a name partner in 2010, McCann went ballistic and sued MDC for talent poaching. McCann initially persuaded MDC to agree to a $200,000 settlement. But then the spat became public, everyone laughed at McCann for being so petty, and McCann walked away with its tail between its legs--and no money.
CEOs leave agencies amid bad blood all the time, but few then sue their former employers for slander. Tarzian did that when he was ousted from Euro RSCG 4D in 2006. In a $5 million claim, Tarzian alleged the shop falsely told prospective clients he was barred from working for them, and that the company had unlawfully take from him a marketing software program he had created. Euro denied the claims and a few months later the parties settled.
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