New York–based GlobalHue, which has been named the industry’s top African-American agency by AdAge multiple times and designated “Multicultural Agency of the Decade” by Adweek in 2009, has failed to pay its employees’ salaries for more than three months.
Yesterday, founder, chairman and CEO Don Coleman conceded in an email that the agency has been unable to compensate its remaining staffers since March 15 and that their health care benefits expired on April 31. He attributed this extended delay to an unspecified financial issue, writing, “We have over a million dollars that has been held up by my bank over a dispute.”
Coleman, who launched the agency in Southfield, Michigan in 1988, wrote, “This is the first time in 28 years we’ve had this problem. There are a number of reasons why.” He then claimed that the issue would be resolved “this week.” When asked to clarify, Coleman stated that all parties currently owed money by GlobalHue will be paid, including any outside vendors and former employees.
Coleman also wrote, “No office is closing.” On Monday, however, we spoke to the director of business development at a company called Motor City Computer who said that his company had recently been hired to clear GlobalHue’s Detroit-area location of all computers and related electronics in addition to wiping hard drives. He told us that his company completed the work for which it was contracted but that it has not been paid by the agency despite repeated queries. Todd Palmer then said that he had recently begun to post comments on the agency’s Facebook page after he did not receive any response to emails and voicemails regarding the allegedly unpaid bills.
The agency has worked with clients such as Verizon, MGM Grand Detroit and the Bermuda Department of Tourism. Its best-known work in recent years was a 2014 Super Bowl campaign for Jeep starring Bob Dylan, and an article that appeared Crain’s Detroit Business the following week called the campaign “a step to general accounts.”
In March 2015, a FIAT Chrysler spokesperson confirmed that the company had parted ways with the shop, which had been creative AOR on the Jeep brand for more than five years. That statement came several days after an agency spokesperson confirmed that the organization would move its headquarters from Southfield to Manhattan with the Detroit-area location serving as “a smaller satellite office.” Former EVP/chief creative officer and DDB Chicago veteran Vida Cornelious then went to Walton Isaacson, and Chrysler eventually sent the Jeep business to DDB Chicago after telling us that it did not plan to name a new agency of record for the brand.
GlobalHue’s LinkedIn page currently lists its total employee count as 200-500, but multiple sources have independently told us that the number of staffers remaining in New York is approximately 15-20. We also hear, again from individuals who reached out to us individually rather than using the anonymous tip box, that employees have been told not to come into the office in recent weeks. Two sources claim that the only recent exception to that rule involved a day on which team members were told to be present when a Walmart representative visited the New York location.
Regarding Coleman’s note about a banking dispute, a former freelance creative director tells us that the CEO has been making similar statements to current and former employees since January. This CD claims that he began working for the agency last October but has not been paid for his work since mid-January, and he also says that agency representatives no longer respond to any related queries after initially reassuring him that he would eventually be paid. Today he forwarded us an auto-reply that he received on May 18 from former director of finance Christopher Christie. It read, “I no longer work at GlobalHue. Please direct all HR, payroll and benefit questions to [other executives].”
GlobalHue has also recently experienced some changes in its client lineup. In May, a spokesperson for U.S. Bank confirmed that the company had ended its relationship with the organization, which won its multicultural AOR account in late 2013.
“I am very appreciative of my employees who have remained loyal to the agency during this time of disruption,” Coleman wrote yesterday. “And we will be back to normal very soon.”