Ousted partner sues Gardner

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Former Gardner, Geary, Coll & Young principal Karen Young has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages against her former San Francisco-based ad agency and its president, Robert Gardner.

The suit, filed in November in California State Superior Court, does not ask for a specific amount in damages, but lists a litany of grievances including breach of implied contract, breach of implied limited partnership, breach of fiduciary duties and discrimination based on both gender and age. Ms. Young asks for both compensatory and punitive damages. The case is currently in the deposition phase; a mediation session is set for March.

In filed papers, Ms. Young, then 50, says she was fired in August for "an alleged lack of skills" after working for parent Gardner Communications since 1978.

The suit seeks, in part, to have Ms. Young's claimed share of the agency put in trust until the agency is sold; or as an alternative, a "judicial dissolution" of the agency.


Ms. Young alleges in the suit that she was promised by Mr. Gardner several times over the years that she would be made partner and receive a share of the company. Ms. Young claims she become a limited partner in 1991. In 1994, Mr. Gardner offered her and two other partners stock appreciation rights, which Ms. Young claims he said were the same as stock because both had real value only when the business was sold.

In the filing, Ms. Young mentions specifically problems with Mr. Gardner's wife, Gretchen, who works for the agency on the Fisher-Price account but does not have an office there. Two incidents are mentioned in the filing. One in 1985, when Ms. Young claims Ms. Gardner "took offense at a comment plaintiff made . . . she physically attacked plaintiff." Another incident in 1995 is detailed when Ms. Young "apparently angered Mrs. Gardner by failing to publicly thank her at a meeting." After the incident, Ms. Young said she apologized twice, but claims Mrs. Gardner still "frequently and publicly stated her intention to get plaintiff fired."

Mr. Gardner said he could not comment on pending litigation. An attorney for Ms. Young did not return calls for comment, and she could not be reached.

Gardner Geary was ranked 302 out of 562 measured ad agencies in the U.S. in Advertising Age's Agency Report (AA, April 19, 1999). Its 1998 billings were $65 million. The agency's 1998 gross income was $7.9 million, up 29% from 1997.

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