Christine Walker, probably the U.K.'s most sought-after media executive, is setting up a media buying joint venture with M&C Saatchi after waiting out a 12-month notice period following her resignation as CEO of Cordiant-owned Zenith Media U.K.
That period was up Oct. 25; she plans to set up Walker Media in January.
ZENITH TO ENFORCE CONTRACT
But Zenith is determined to enforce another clause in Ms. Walker's employment contract prohibiting her from approaching key Zenith staff and clients for a year past the notice period.
Last week, Zenith took her to court to confirm the contract. In a hearing, the judge upheld the contract but gave Ms. Walker the opportunity to explore the issue of the contract's validity in detail in early November at the High Court in London.
Neither side would comment due to the legal action.
"We did not want to be in court," said John Perriss, chairman-chief executive of Zenith Worldwide. "We have no desire to stop Christine setting up her own company. We have no vendetta and wish her well in her next endeavor. But if someone signs a contract and is paid a not inconsiderable remuneration, she should have to obey the restrictive covenants."
Ms. Walker was with Zenith U.K., a $1 billion operation employing about 200 staffers, since the company opened in 1988. She is one of the best-known women in the U.K. ad industry and has a reputation as a tough negotiator with strong relationships with clients.
"I rang her up the day she announced she was leaving Zenith," said David Kershaw, a managing partner at M&C Saatchi. "I think the whole world was after her."
Mr. Kershaw said M&C Saatchi will continue to work with Publicis and its Optimedia media buying shop on British Airways and other international clients.
INITIAL FOCUS ON U.K.
Walker Media, which will be owned half by Ms. Walker and half by M&C Saatchi, will initially focus on U.K. business, he said. M&C Saatchi does media planning but does not do any of its own media buying.
Also last week, Cordiant shareholders voted in favor of the division of Cordiant into two publicly traded companies- Saatchi & Saatchi and Cordiant Communications