PEACE IN SAATCHI-LAND

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The show is over. The battle for clients, staff and the Saatchi name, waged for five months by New Saatchi and Old Saatchi, won't culminate after all in a spellbinding appearance by the Saatchi brothers in the witness box of London's High Court.

So be it. Maurice Saatchi has won. Unmistakably. He's still in business, with key lieutenants who bolted the old Saatchi & Saatchi now free to join him, and with more make-or-break challenges ahead.

The trial would have been great courtroom theater, and a welcome switch for the O.J.-jaded. But it would have been self-defeating for Mr. Saatchi and Cordiant PLC, the agency holding company he built and then lost control of in a boardroom shoot out.

Cordiant will be better off with it over. We believe it acted properly in using the courts once Mr. Saatchi declared his intent to open a rival agency. But the British judge handling the dispute signaled as far back as February that he was unimpressed with the case against Mr. Saatchi. And whatever the bitterness about this blowup, Cordiant today seems wise to have gotten what it could from him, including short-term limitations on further client and staff poaching.

Now, finally, both companies can concentrate on the ad business and their clients. No more sensational revelations about Mr. Saatchi's expensive lifestyle leaked by the Saatchi side; no more deft anti-Saatchi PR coups by Mr. Saatchi and his PR adviser, Sir Tim Bell.

Winning British Airways last month made Maurice Saatchi an international player again, not a cast-off agency chairman. Without BA, he would have just been head of a startup London agency. But he has BA under contract for only one year, one year for his M&C Saatchi Agency to show it can deliver on its promises.

Peppering Mr. Saatchi with lawsuits was a useful tactic for Cordiant; it harassed his startup shop as it worked to poach Cordiant business. Valuable time was tied up with lawyers' meetings, and Cordiant's spirited enforcement of non-compete agreements stopped Mr. Saatchi from using his best people for several crucial Saatchi vs. Saatchi pitches.

Unfortunately for Cordiant, none of it worked. But it did what it had to do and should not look back.

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