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Dear Phil,

Don't you think all this harassment of Marvin Sloves is, ummm, counterproductive?

A big, publicly held communications corporation like yours is supposed to follow the three "Cs": Be clean, consistent and client-centric. But I've got to give you a D- on the Cs.

Clean? Well, there's been a slew of unsourced leaks that make damning accusations against Sloves, but neither I nor -- more importantly -- a judge have seen any evidence he did anything untoward in the loss of the Mercedes-Benz account by your Lowe & Partners/SMS agency.

Consistent? Your boys (named and unnamed) have been saying it was Marvin that kept Mercedes glued to Lowe. But I hear from Marvin and others that Lowe also wanted to get rid of him. If the former, why the latter?

Client-centric? One assumes if Lowe was eagle-eyed about Mercedes' interests, it would have found an acceptable successor for Sloves a little earlier -- and most certainly wouldn't have hired someone (as it did) who lasted only a few months. I further assume if Lowe had its remaining clients in mind, it wouldn't be opening itself up to protracted legal actions that risk having them hauled into court to disclose what conversations they did or didn't have about their business.

(I've got old clips about the Lord Geller/-Lord Einstein imbro-glio. Remind me, and I'll send Xeroxes. For now, suffice to say the Lords didn't rise again.)

I like Lowe Chairman Lee Garfinkel, who, with Marvin and others, transformed the agency into a significant force. I've done some work for one of your other agencies, which predisposes me to like you. And I freely admit I like Marvin, with whom I've had wonderful conversations about Tuscany and St. John's College and politics and lots of things having nothing to do with advertising. So when Marvin tells me, as he did over lunch at Mesa Grill last week, that Mercedes was a goner with or without him, I'm inclined to believe him.

Call me naive, Phil, but I find his arguments pretty compelling.

I know you guys contend Marvin breached his agreements by never telling you the account was imperiled. To which Marvin says: "This is nonsense, because I kept telling them they were in trouble. I told Geier directly there was a problem; that -- I think it was on Dec. 13 -- media was going, and it did. I told them there was pressure regarding Chrysler. But no one wanted to believe it."

I know you think he shopped the account around to Omnicom Group and/or other companies, in violation of his contract. To which Marvin says: "I've had no talks with Omnicom or anyone else. I've never even been to Omnicom. I told that to Geier and [IPG Chief Financial Officer] Gene Beard directly. Where did they hear that?"

I know you believe Marvin had such power over Mercedes executives that he could snap his fingers and make them walk. To which I say: $125 million hip-pocket accounts are figments of another era. Even you couldn't keep Coca-Cola from departing for points west.

There are far more logical explanations for Mercedes' departure: It wanted an agency network with a more global presence and greater depth in ancillary marketing functions; its parent company's acquisition of Chrysler Corp. gave it impetus to seek efficiencies by hiring a Chrysler agency network; and the Chrysler-Daimler merger put it on the inevitable path to conflict with Interpublic's representaton of General Motors Corp.

The most embarrassing part -- for you, not Sloves -- is the ridiculous court proceeding that concluded Feb. 19. Your company (which Marvin says is still withholding his consulting fees, retirement payments and profit-sharing income) was trying to enjoin him from taking any other business or personnel away from Lowe. When the judge asked for evidence Sloves was engaged in such nefarious activity, your lawyer seemed able to point only to the gossip in some newsletters and trade journals, which tautologically sourced in its unsourced way right back to Interpublic.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Franklin R. Weissberg was (as Brits like your pal Frank Lowe might say) gobsmacked. "There is not a scintilla of evidence in your papers that Mr. Sloves has done anything . . . " he said. "There's nothing in these papers, literally nothing, with respect to an attempt by Mr. Sloves to lure other Interpublic clients away. Not a shred of evidence."

"The application," Judge Weissberg said at another point, "seems, in a word, to be preposterous."

A good word for the whole affair. Why not end it now, Phil?