Managing Partner-CEO Mary Lou Quinlan is determined to keep staffers who have worked on the business from leaving for J. Walter Thompson Co., which will take over DeBeers on Jan. 1.
Both JWT and DeBeers have approached Ayer employees about jumping to JWT, sources close to Ayer said.
Several Ayer staffers have taken jobs with JWT, including Joan Parker, who will do the same jobs at JWT she did at Ayer-head of the Diamond Information Center and client public relations.
But in a recent meeting with the DeBeers staffers, Ms. Quinlan firmly explained their non-compete agreements' terms, and said she would place as many of them as possible within Ayer. A hostile debate ensued, and Ms. Quinlan eventually stormed out.
A spokeswoman said it wouldn't be fair to clients such as General Motors Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. to let employees follow DeBeers. JWT handles GM rival Ford Motor Co. and P&G competitor Lever Bros.
However, some staffers say their expertise in the jewelry store business won't be used with other Ayer clients. DeBeers historically uses its U.S. agency to run the cartel's entire trade promotion program in the country.
Ms. Quinlan told Advertising Age she wants to aggressively go after a jewelry account.
Separately, Richard Humphreys, who co-owns Ayer with W.Y. Choi, denied an Ad Age report that he's looking for a chairman to oversee the agency. "There is absolutely no truth to" that, he said. "We have every confidence" in Ms. Quinlan and the other two managing partners, Chief Strategic Officer Martyn Straw and Chief Creative Officer Mark Fenske.