CORDIANT CONTESTS MAURICE'S BONUS

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One of Cordiant's bargaining chips in its legal battle against deposed Chairman Maurice Saatchi emerged last week: the 1994 bonuses of Maurice Saatchi and Jeremy Sinclair.

An inconspicuous note in the back of the former Saatchi & Saatchi Co.'s annual report released last week said the bonuses "are currently the subject of legal proceedings." Both men served on the holding company's board, so the information had to be included in the report.

Mr. Saatchi's bonus is believed to be about $150,000, less than the $220,000 collected by Chief Executive Charlie Scott and $210,000 awarded to Wendy Smyth, Cordiant's finance director. A Cordiant spokesman wouldn't specify the amount being withheld for the two men, or say whether other Saatchi defectors also had bonuses pending.

Mr. Saatchi was ousted from the board and as holding company chairman in December; Mr. Sinclair, then named acting chairman, quit in January to join Mr. Saatchi's New Saatchi Agency.

Separately, Cordiant last week filed suit in Australia over Mr. Saatchi's bid to call his office there New Saatchi Agency. Sydney's Federal Court ruled that the name "New Maurice Saatchi Agency" or the slightly abbreviated "New M. Saatchi Agency" can be used at least until a preliminary hearing May 26. A final decision may not come until July.

With typical insouciance, New Saatchi has officially registered its company name in Australia as Bright Red Oranges for now.

Simon Corah recently left Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in Sydney to become the new agency's managing director. New Saatchi Asia/Pacific Chairman Tom Dery said Saatchi & Saatchi officials asked Mr. Corah if he knew what the new agency was to be called, and he jokingly said it could be Bright Red Oranges.

Back in the U.K., Cordiant has a similar lawsuit pending over use of the Saatchi name, but the case won't be heard until sometime next year.

The main legal hurdle is the trial scheduled to start June 12 in London's High Court over Cordiant's attempts to enforce non-compete clauses in the employment contracts of Bill Muirhead, Mr. Sinclair and David Kershaw, three top Saatchi executives who defected in January to join Mr. Saatchi's agency. However, a pre-trial settlement is considered likely (AA, May 15).

The question of the Cordiant bonuses may seem like small change considering that Maurice and Charles Saatchi have been newly ranked as the joint 143rd wealthiest people in the U.K. with a combined worth of $120 million. But their assets are not exactly liquid.

The brothers last week rejoined the Sunday Times of London's annual list of the 500 richest people in the U.K. after an absence of four years-but only because the newspaper decided to include Charles' art collection, the brothers' main asset. Due to a strengthening of the art market, the collection was estimated at $113 million. Their other assets are Maurice's mansion in Sussex and stakes in various small companies.

A $40 million settlement negotiated in November with Adidas Chairman Robert Louis-Dreyfus to pry the brothers out of an option to acquire Adidas with Mr. Louis-Dreyfus was not included. That money, which Cordiant is taking legal action to try to prove should belong to the company rather than to the Saatchi brothers, is believed to be in escrow.

Charles Siler contributed to this story.

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