Former Dentsu Creative Sues Over Trips to Brothel, Bathhouse, Sharapova Shoot

Steve Biegel Alleges He Was Fired for Complaining About Sexual Situations

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NEW YORK ( -- A former creative director at Dentsu USA has filed suit against the holding company, claiming he was fired after he complained about being put in sexually-charged work situations that included side trips to a Czech brothel, a Tokyo bathhouse and a Maria Sharapova photo shoot.

Former senior VP-group creative director Steve Biegel is claiming that Dentsu Holdings CEO Toyo Shigeta put the married Mr. Biegel and other employees in awkward out-of-office situations. When Mr. Biegel balked and confronted Mr. Shigeta, the relationship declined and he was ultimately fired, according to an Associated Press report on the lawsuit late yesterday. The lawsuit, filed in federal court here in New York, demands unspecified damages.

Dentsu: 'Outrageous allegations'
Dentsu issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit: "Steve Biegel is a former employee who was terminated almost a year ago. When Dentsu refused to yield to Mr. Biegel's unreasonable demands, he made outrageous allegations which the company has refuted. He has now filed a claim to obtain money to which he is not entitled, for incidents he alleges took place over three years ago and which he never complained about while an employee of Dentsu. The company intends to counterclaim that Mr. Biegel has libeled Dentsu and defrauded the company. We look forward to the opportunity to vindicate our company in court."

Emphasizing crotches
The court papers, as reported by the AP, contain a number of lurid details. Among them:
  • A 2004 trip to a Tokyo bathhouse during which the Dentsu chief told Mr. Biegel and others to dip naked into a bath with him.

  • A trip to Brazilian beach where Mr. Shigeta took numerous photos emphasizing the crotches of sunbathing women, and not letting up until he was threatened by one of his subject's male companions.

  • A photo shoot in Florida that was the site of another alleged "crotch shot," this time of tennis star Maria Sharapova, who stars in Dentsu's "Make Every Shot a Power Shot" campaign for Canon. The snap was passed around and is now attached to the lawsuit as evidence.

  • A separate Canon photo shoot that took Messrs. Biegel, Shigeta and others to the Czech Republic, where Mr. Biegel was duped into visiting a brothel. According to the AP, Mr. Biegel and the other executive declined to take part, leaving Mr. Shigeta angry and to label them "no fun."
Mr. Biegel was fired in November 2006, though he was honored in Dentsu's bronze Effie this year for Canon in the consumer-electronics category.

The lawsuit comes at an awkward time for the company, as it seeks to penetrate the U.S. market. Earlier this week, Dentsu, whose other U.S. clients include Toyota and HarperCollins, made headlines by acquiring the digital and design shop Attik.
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