The Dirty Details of the Dentsu Suit

Former Creative Steve Biegel's Complaint Is a Multimedia Account of Compromising Situations

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- There's a new masterpiece in the expanding genre of advertising court documents.
Maria Sharapova
A 'crotch shot' of tennis star Maria Sharapova allegedly taken by Dentsu CEO Toyo Shigeta.
point bug Steve Biegel's Lawsuit

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Former Dentsu Creative Sues Over Trips to Brothel, Bathhouse, Sharapova Shoot
Steve Biegel Alleges He Was Fired for Complaining About Sexual Situations

Former Dentsu USA Creative Director Steve Biegel's complaint against his former employer will go down as a sort of X-rated business travelogue that ascribes a whole range of pervy behavior to his former boss, Dentsu Holdings CEO Toyo Shigeta.

In the suit, Mr. Biegel claims that Mr. Shigeta forced him into several steamy environments, from a bathhouse to a brothel, against his will and then fired him after he complained. He details it all in a 21-page complaint filed in federal court here that names as defendants the company and Mr. Shigeta as well as Tim Andree, head of Dentsu's U.S. operation.

What puts Mr. Biegel's complaint above other legal gems such as convicted fraudster Shona Seifert's ad-industry moral code -- great mainly in an ironic way -- or Wal-Mart's savage, lurid counterattack on Julie Roehm, the former marketing executive who sued after she was dismissed, is one simple factor: Besides providing great detail about any number of compromising situations, this case is a multimedia affair.

Sharapova image
One exhibit attached to the lawsuit is an image of tennis star Maria Sharapova allegedly taken by Mr. Shigeta during a 2004 commercial shoot for Dentsu client Canon. Ms. Sharapova is pictured with her legs propped up on the back of a director's chair exposing her panties as she snacks on what appears to be a can of Pringles. Mr. Biegel is claiming that Mr. Shigeta's crotch obsession led him to pass the photo around and is part of a pattern of behavior that created a hostile work environment that led him to complain. He was fired in November 2006.

Also included in the complaint is a link to a website for a Czech whorehouse. The internet home of Prague's Escade describes its services in a version of English reminiscent of Borat. Sample: "Young strippers and their performance will make you (sic) evening enjoyable." Another: "If you want to choise (sic) yourself, just call us and we take care of you. If you buy lady-companion for all night, we'll surprise you by an interesting discount." Also available is an interactive, panoramic view of the premises.

Mr. Biegel claims he and another employee were duped by Mr. Shigeta into visiting Escade but that he didn't sleep with a prostitute there despite Mr. Shigeta's efforts to pair him up.

Dentsu plans to sue
For its part, Dentsu said it intends to sue Mr. Biegel for libel, but it isn't out-and-out denying all of the factual allegations. It issued this statement late yesterday: "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."
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