Steve Dworin Will Claim He Was Defamed

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Steve Dworin, ex-partner of adman-turned-TV star Donny Deutsch, said he plans to file a lawsuit against Mr. Deutsch, alleging that Mr. Deutsch defamed him and breached a contract between the two men in which they pledged not to “disparage” each other.

Photo: Timothy White
Donny Deutsch's former partner, Steve Dworin, is filing a lawsuit against him.
The suit looks certain to resurrect some of the bitterness, sorrow and drama surrounding the parting of the two one-time business partners. Mr. Dworin, who joined David Deutsch Associates in September 1991 and left in early 1994, is taking legal action over Mr. Deutsch’s commentary about him in Mr. Deutsch’s recent book, “Often Wrong, Never in Doubt.” He said the suit will be filed by the end of this month.

Difficult divorce
Mr. Dworin said he will claim that Mr. Deutsch’s rendition of their relationship in the book is derogatory and untrue. The derogatory characterizations, Mr. Dworin said, are a breach of a lifetime nondisparagement agreement that he said both men signed at the time Mr. Dworin left the agency -- then called Deutsch/Dworin -- in 1994.

According to Mr. Deutsch’s book, the parting was at times difficult. On page 60, Mr. Dworin says to Mr. Deutsch: “I hope you’re going to do the right thing by me, because what happens if we have to get lawyers involved? Then we have to start talking about business, and I’ve got to start talking about what a crazy business environment it was.” Then, according to the book, Mr. Dworin mentioned several of Mr. Deutsch’s wilder moments on the job.

Deutsch’s $300 million payday
As Mr. Deutsch narrates it, he nearly blew up, but caught himself and refrained. The two negotiated a settlement, which included an undisclosed amount of money. “Six years later, I sold the company for close to $300 million,” Mr. Deutsch writes. “What I ended up paying Dworin was insignificant in comparison.”

When Mr. Dworin left the agency in 1994, he moved to N.W. Ayer as chairman-CEO. After a year there, he moved in late 1995 to Euro RSCG Worldwide as vice-chairman. Most recently, he was president of POPstick Outburst, a unit of digital arts and technology company POPstick Inc. He is launching a new venture on March 1.

Playing out on 'Page Six'
Word of a possible lawsuit against Mr. Deutsch surfaced publicly in a New York Post "Page Six" column last week. An item floating the possibility of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Mr. Deutsch by his ex-business partner appeared; it was followed the next day by an item suggesting Mr. Dworin’s motivation for the suit was to generate publicity for his new company.

Mr. Dworin also claims that Mr. Deutsch’s lawyer, Judd Burstein, while in a conversation with Mr. Dworin’s lawyer, admitted Mr. Deutsch breached the agreement. Mr. Burstein said that’s “completely untrue.” He also called Mr. Dworin’s claims “the height of frivolity” and a "pathetic attempt at a shakedown with no ability to do any shaking.”

Deutsch CEO Linda Sawyer, Deutsch and its parent company, Interpublic Group of Cos., will be named as co-defendants in the suit, according to Mr. Dworin.

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