Sears responds to Focus countersuit

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In the latest volley between Focus Media and Sears, Roebuck & Co., the retail giant said it stopped fowarding money to the media buying agency in February "because Sears had sent Focus in excess of $50 million in the previous 2 months and Sears had concerns about whether that money was being properly paid to media outlets."

Sears earlier this month sued Santa Monica, Calif.-based Focus for breach of contract and making slow payments to the media. Focus then filed a $100 million countersuit against Sears last week, claiming the retailer violated an oral agreement with the media buying shop for one year notice of termination. In the Sears reply memorandum filed last Friday regarding the Focus countersuit, Senior VP-Retail Marketing David Selby also said Sears never made such an oral agreement.

In the point-by-point repudiation of Focus' allegations, Mr. Selby denied Focus' charges that Sears was trying to drive Focus, a small California shop, out of business. "Because Sears was paying Focus a separate agency fee approaching $6 million per year, Focus was not entitled to any commission for the advertising it placed," he said. Mr. Selby also denied allegations made in an affidavit by Tom Rubin, Focus chairman-CEO, that Sears was upset about his attempt to sell the company to an agency holding company. "Rubin has been claiming that such a merger was imminent throughout my tenure at Sears," Mr. Selby said. "Nonetheless, no such merger has occurred."

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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