Frisco Agency Succumbs to Infighting, Lawsuit Results

By Matt Van Hoven 

Brian Hurley’s name was on the door at San Francisco’s Grant Scott & Hurley, right up until he and colleague Kathleen Kusek were kicked out of the agency by Hurley’s partners, Grant Richards, Stan Richards and Scott Aal. Hurley and Kusek sued the trio for “egregious misconduct” on allegations that include broken promises and defamation. This is classic advertising drama, right down to the payout.

Three Score, One Doesn’t
Almost one year ago to-the-day we told you about the merger between Grant Scott & Hurley and long-time competitor BuderEngel. The shop now goes by Engine Company 1 and as far as we know everything is chugging along nicely, on the surface. But behind the scenes a lawsuit has been brewing since 2007, when a power-play left Hurley without a pot to call home, if you know what we mean.

The suit was filed in 2007 by Hurley who according to court documents was promised 1/4 of the company’s value if he kept his end of the bargain. Of course, Hurley claims he did his part &#151 and then some. Per Hurley’s claim: “To induce Hurley to work tirelessly on behalf of the agency (and generate profits for the individual defendants), the individual defendants &#151 whose contributions to the agency paled in comparison to those of Hurley &#151 promised Hurley an equal ownership share of the agency, an equal share of the profits and equal control over the business. To similarly induce Kusek, they promised her increased compensation and the opportunity to head a spin-off business and earn profits generated by that business.”


Promises, Promises
But something went wrong. In 2007, for unnamed reasons, Kusek and Hurley were locked out of the agency, their email and everything connecting them to the agency (cites the claim) was blocked. Cut off. This happened “after relations between [Hurley, Kusek and the others] had become strained over a series of business conflicts and other disagreements…” We’re not privy to those details, but we bet they’re juicy.

The complaint is filled with classic agency banter, albeit a bit brushed up for legal purposes. Example: “For nearly ten years, Hurley was the ‘go-to’ (note: apparently quotes were needed to identify this common phrase as a cliche.) principal for all employees and nearly every client. He was routinely the first one in the office, the last one to leave, and frequently the only GSH&P principal at weekly staff meetings. He rarely took holidays or vacations, and when he did, they were filled with phone calls, client negotiations, and even new business meetings.” (note: Yeah, and I’m single-handedly saving journalism and advertising over here.)

It’s fairly predictable from there on out. And apparently, it worked because a jury recently awarded Hurley nearly $500,000. Kusek nabbed a cool $86k for her part, though that seems to be a ‘lost-wage’ settlement. Engine Company 1 isn’t mentioned anywhere in the suit so it’s presumable that the agency separated itself from the fray. And since GS&H no longer exists, the question now becomes where did the money come from to pay off Hurley and Kusek? Undetermined details, oh readers. Let us know what you hear.

More:San Fran Agency News: Mergers and New Hires