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WPP's Grey Sues IPG Over Centrillo

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NEW YORK WPP Group's Grey Global Group has filed a lawsuit against Interpublic Group, its agency Foote Cone & Belding and the latter's worldwide CEO Steve Blamer for hiring former Grey employee Steve Centrillo, according to papers filed today in State Supreme Court here.

The suit claims the defendants knowingly violated Blamer's contractual obligations to Grey, from which he resigned as CEO of North American operations in January. They did so by hiring Centrillo as IPG chief growth officer in May, and then naming him president and CEO of FCB in New York last month. (Grey asserts that Blamer orchestrated Centrillo's recruitment by IPG in violation of his contract.)

Centrillo had been a managing partner of Grey's darkGrey unit and COO of Grey Atlanta. He split his time between New York and Atlanta.

From January through his start date at FCB on June 16, Blamer was "prohibited from engaging in any activities that failed to promote the interests of Grey and Grey Worldwide, including any planning, discussions or activities with defendant IPG and defendant FCB Worldwide," the suit says.

"Defendant Blamer continues to recruit employees from Grey in violation of his various agreements with Grey," the papers state, adding that IPG then recruited Grey's new business director, Chris Shumaker, to join IPG under Centrillo in July. The suit alleges that the hiring came under Blamer and Centrillo's direction. Shumaker is currently on "garden leave" from Grey as he sits out the remainder of his contract, which runs through January 2006. He could not be reached for comment, nor could Centrillo.

Blamer was traveling and unavailable for comment.

A representative for FCB, Jan Sneed, said, "We will vigorously defend our position." IPG declined comment.

"Upon information and belief, Centrillo is currently in contact with Shumaker regarding defendant IPG and defendant FCB matters," the papers say.