Forget about advertising, the best account in the business at the moment is acting for WPP against the huge marcoms group’s former employees.
Fresh from winning a fight with UK agency marriage counsellor Oystercatchers over its plan to start a new company with employees from Everystone and The Brand Union, WPP is suing Michelle Hutton (pictured) and Anna MacIntosh, the former top pair at Hill & Knowlton in Australia who left about a year ago to head the country practice of independent PR giant Edelman.
H&K alleges that Hutton and Macintosh broke their contracts by leaving for Edelman and approaching clients. It is also suing Edelman for inducing them to do so.
H&K seems to be in some disarray, Hutton’s successor as CEO Marcus Warner left the company recently after just eight months. Intriguingly Warner had been a marketer at big law firm Norton Rose, the lawyers acting for WPP in this case and others in Australia.
Hutton, MacIntosh and Edelman are defending the action. Independently-owned Edelman is one of the biggest PR firms in the world and its owner Richard Edelman, one of the best-connected PR men in the business, is not the kind of man to back down, especially if he thinks WPP is trying to push him around.
WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell would riposte that contracts are contracts and his company’s clients are his and not the property of the people who work on them at his companies.
Sooner or later such accounts do follow the people they want to work with of course. But WPP is making the process a whole lot harder than it ever has been before.