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Dworin Sues Deutsch

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NEW YORK Steve Dworin, a former president of Deutsch Inc., is suing the agency and its two top executives for $56 million plus damages, alleging slander, libel and breach of contract.

A 32-page document was filed March 30 in Superior Court in Union County, New Jersey, and names chairman Donny Deutsch, whom Dworin calls "emotionally unstable" and "ego-maniacal." The document also implies that Deutsch abused drugs. In addition, it names agency CEO Linda Sawyer as a defendant.

The filing stems from a "non-disparagement" agreement Dworin and Deutsch had following the former's 1994 departure from the company after three years.

In an unusually personal complaint, Dworin cites everything from Deutsch's "insecurity" about being handed the agency by his father, David Deutsch, "on a silver platter with a silver spoon," to the various insecurities "stemming from his mother's parenting manner" to descriptions of Deutsch as a "remorseful supplicant spouse in a marriage" when called by Dworin on his "immature behavior."

The complaint is also replete with lines such as, Deutsch "was becoming wealthier by the day, his poor professional behavior and diminishing personal life made him a virtual poster boy for the maxim, 'Money can't buy happiness.' "

Dworin claims the breach of contract occurred in Donny Deutsch's 2005 book, Often Wrong, Never in Doubt, in which he describes the tumultuous working relationship between himself and Dworin.

According to the complaint, Deutsch was a "jealous . . . unhappy man [who was] earning a fortune of money because of his father's generosity and the results of Steve Dworin's performance as president of the company."

The document continues: "Donald Deutsch remained unhappy, seemingly torn between feelings of less worth because his father had handed him a well-established company, and feeling even more miserable because the company was expanding exponentially due to Steve Dworin's extraordinary achievements for which Dworin was receiving enormous credit and coverage in the media."

The complaint quotes extensively from Deutsch's book and contains numerous positive press clippings about Dworin.

Saying the book is an example of Donny Deutsch's "arrogant . . . and 'above it all' behavior/approach," the document cites a passage in which Deutsch referred to Dworin as "his biggest professional mistake."

The complaint claims that the book's descriptions of Dworin once entering Deutsch's office "with his chest all stuck out," and another incident in which Deutsch "held up his hand and moved his fingers up and down as if to say to the plaintiff, 'See ya,' " were created "out of thin air."

Dworin, 52, also accuses Deutsch of mismanaging the agency, at the time named Deutsch/Dworin, because Deutsch often overslept, missed meetings and generally neglected his management responsibilities, according to the document.

Dworin names Sawyer, calling her the de facto editor of Deutsch's book, and cites a passage in it that says Sawyer told Deutsch that Dworin "alienated employees of the company."

Judd Burstein, the New York attorney representing Deutsch, said, "This is merely a desperate attempt by Steve Dworin to convince the world and himself that he is not the cause of his own failures."

Referring to a letter he received from Dworin's lawyer, Burstein said, "He has already gone on record that he is suing in an effort to resurrect his career."

Deutsch has 20 days to respond to the complaint. "We plan to defend it vigorously, which may not even be necessary because it's so frivolous," Burstein said.

In a phone interview, Dworin said, "The lawsuit was written to be able to stand on its own. . . . We had a contract. He broke that contract, which was non-derogatory, non-disparagement, and he broke it with lies. And he broke it in a book.

"When I read the book, I couldn't believe these stories," he continued. "He pretended to be friends with me up until October [when the book came out]. We'd run into each other, have drinks. He could have given me a heads up".

Last fall, Dworin wrote to Donny Deutsch, asking him for a job reference. In an e-mail obtained by Adweek and dated Oct. 20, 2005, Dworin wrote: "This may sound very strange in light of what you said about me in your book, but . . . believe it or not . . . I'd like to use you as a reference," the e-mail reads in part. "I understand your feelings and what is in the book and why, however, . . . I also believe that you understand there is some talent here . . . If giving you as a reference is a stupid move on my part, please tell me."

After leaving Deutsch in 1994, Dworin held executive positions at N.W. Ayer and Euro RSCG and a company called Popstick. He is being represented by Biebelberg & Martin in Millburn, N.J.

"Generally, the failure of a lawyer to spell his client's name correctly does not bode well for the client," Burstein added. He was referring to the first page of the complaint where "Dworin" is spelled "Dworkin."