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Online Exclusive: Agency News

MIKE BURNS FILES COUNTERSUIT AGAINST SAATCHI

Latest Round in Saatchi 17 Walkout Battle

By Published on . 0

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Mike Burns, the former Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide executive whose departure from the agency set off a chain of events that included the walkout of 17 staffers, has responded to a lawsuit by his former agency with a suit of his own.
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Saatchi’s suit charges Mr. Burns, a 25-year veteran of the Publicis Groupe-owned agency who had been worldwide group account director on the General Mills account, with violating his fiduciary duties and duties of loyalty by doing such things as bad-mouthing Saatchi to colleagues and plotting to unseat the $539 million account from the agency. The suit seeks not less than $3 million in damages.

Suit called retaliatory
In his suit, Mr. Burns argues that Saatchi & Saatchi’s suit is a retaliatory one and “an effort to besmirch the employee’s good name in an attempt to ensure that he never works again.”

In a statement, Mr. Burns said, “I’m happy to finally have a voice in the matter of Saatchi & Saatchi’s baseless and ill-founded lawsuit against me. My sentiments concerning this case are best captured by the Motion-to-Dismiss memorandum filed by my attorneys today in the New York State Supreme Court: e.g., a plaintiff’s anger, embarrassment and fear are no basis for legal action.”

Taking swipes at Saatchi's mottos
The motion takes several sarcastic jibes at Saatchi, making wordplays on the agency's mottos, such as "Nothing Is Impossible." The suit says that while Saatchi operates with the motto "Nothing is Impossible," its "complaint proves otherwise, that it is not possible to maintain a case against Mr. Burns," and that if the agency is known as "The Ideas Company" in the ad industry, "the idea to sue Mr. Burns was misguided."

Mr. Burns, who resigned from Saatchi Feb. 11, is not employed, according to people familiar with his situation. Three days after he resigned, 17 employees who worked for Mr. Burns on General Mills resigned en masse from Saatchi. That group, which includes Mr. Burns' longtime No. 2, Annette Adriance, as well as senior account, planning and creative staff, are now employed by Interpublic Group of Cos.

The group is working out of offices leased by Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide, although several executives familiar with the situation claim they are not affliated with the Interpublic Group of Cos.' agency network.

An Interpublic spokesman did not return a call for comment at press time. A Saatchi spokeswoman said the agency had no comment.

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