Would you Adam & Eve it?

November 11, 2009

Martin SorrellWhere does he find the time? Besides dealing with “fundamental strategic issues” every day of his working life (ie, every day), WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell has developed a formidable talent for litigation.

The latest scalps are a group of executives who conspired to swindle WPP over the purchase of one of Australia’s most venerable agencies, George Patterson. Briefly, two Patts execs (as they say Down Under), md Anthony Heraghty and ecd James McGrath, were secretly channelled $1.5m by the former owner, Pacific Equity Partners, to stay on for a year, as an inducement for WPP to pay a higher price. They duly did, then quit: which obviously left Hamish McLennan, the group ceo of acquiring WPP agency Y&R, looking extremely vulnerable; if not quite so vulnerable as certain strategic Patts accounts.

That was three years ago. Dogged legal pursuit has resulted in an unreserved apology from Heraghty and McGrath, and well over $10m damages extracted from all the defendants, including PEP. PEP, while admitting it knew about the agreements, has blamed lawyers Clayton Utz for poor advice. Sorrell is now, separately, pursuing Clayton Utz.

And the message is? Watch out for the High Court in London on Monday, November 23rd, when Sorrell attempts to extract a similar package from Adam & Eve, the agency that had the temerity to break away from WPP without asking. I am assured that nothing less than a grovelling apology and a great deal of money will suffice.

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