Michael Kassan sues IPG

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Michael Kassan, president-chief operating officer of the U.S. operation of Western Initiative Media Worldwide, has filed an arbitration action and a suit against Western and parent company Interpublic Group of Cos. for breach of contract and defamation of character.

Mr. Kassan is asking a total $63.5 million in damages.

According to a press release issued by public relations company Rogers & Associates, Los Angeles, Mr. Kassan filed a notice of intent to arbitrate before the American Arbitration Association in Los Angeles, as required by his present employment agreement. He is seeking $50 million in that action.

In conjunction with a new employment contract Mr. Kassan signed, which runs from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2004, Mr. Kassan also filed a suit in U.S. District Court in New York, for "anticipatory breach of contract of the new agreement,'' the release said.

Mr. Kassan is seeking $13.5 million in that action.

Advertising Age had not yet seen a copy of the suit or the notice of intent to arbitrate, and Interpublic executives said they also had not yet seen the documents.

Nicholas Camera, Interpublic's general counsel, declined comment since he had not seen the documents.

According to the release, the suit alleges that "the purpose of Interpublic's scheme has been to force Kassan to resign or devise a pretextural reason to terminate him, thereby, according to Interpublic, nullifying both his current agreement with Interpublic and the new employment agreement.''

The release further states that, according to the suit, Interpublic's actions "included ordering Kassan not to report to his office and not to communicate with Western's clients and employees, conducting an 'audit' to search (in vain) for wrongdoing on behalf of Kassan, rifling through his personal files, removing Kassan's support staff, redirecting his telephones to someone else's office, telling people who called--including his bankers and family members--that Kassan did not work at the company anymore, opening his personal mail, taking personal faxes to other employees and disseminating defamatory statements that Kassan was on an extended leave of absence from Western because of his role in financial misconduct when it knew that Kassan had committed no such misconduct.''

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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