The threat of losing more executives or clients prompted Interpublic Group on Friday to file a complaint with the American Arbitration Association that accuses Frank Lowe of using proprietary information to damage his former agency, sources said.
In fact, IPG decided midweek to take action after Lowe London executive creative director Ed Morris told his bosses Lowe had offered him a job at the shop he's opening in London. The unnamed firm already took Lowe's $80 million Tesco account and three senior executives: chairman Paul Weinberger and the creative director team of Sam Cartmell and Jason Lawes.
As such, Lowe is keen to retain Morris, who has created award-winning work for clients such as InBev's Stella Artois. By Thursday, Lowe London CEO Garry Lace and worldwide CEO Tony Wright had offered Morris a substantial raise to stay, said sources. Wright declined comment; Lace and Morris did not return calls.
IPG believes the grievance has merit because Lowe, who was dismissed in 2003 and whose contract had a non-compete that expired last year, is collecting a pension. Sources said the pension came with a prohibition against soliciting Lowe clients and employees. It's unclear how long that prohibition lasts. An IPG rep declined comment.
An IPG statement read: "Frank Lowe sold his agency to Interpublic in 1990 for tens of millions of dollars and subsequently received many times that amount in financial support and resources to build a global network, recruit and compensate key talent. … In breach of his continuing fiduciary responsibilities, he has chosen to use contacts and proprietary knowledge to damage Lowe and Interpublic.
"We [are] asking the court for monetary compensation and injunctive action," it continued. "We ... intend to hold any Lowe employee seeking to join Mr. Lowe to their full notice period."
A representative for Frank Lowe declined comment, saying Lowe had yet to see the complaint.