The Battle for Brooks

NEW YORK — As WPP Group’s chief human resources officer for the past nine years, Brian Brooks is no stranger to the fierce battle for talent between rivals IPG and WPP.

Now, he finds himself quite literally in the middle of yet another feud — this time involving his own decision to leave WPP for IPG.

Last week, it emerged that WPP won’t pursue an injunction filed against Brooks, 46, after he agreed to abide by the 12-month notice period contractually required should he plan to leave WPP. The U.K.-based holding company had sought that legal recourse in High Court in London after Brooks resigned to join IPG as head of human resources. Brooks has also given 12-months’ notice that he is leaving WPP’s board.

C. Kent Kroeber, IPG’s long-time top HR executive, is expected to stay on until Brooks is able to assume his new responsibilities. Kroeber, who plans to retire after more than 30 years with IPG, was instrumental in wooing Brooks.

Some suspect WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell will use the time to try to convince Brooks to stay put, since Brooks is said to have vacillated in his decision to leave WPP. Sorrell
is said to have known about Brooks’ discussions with IPG for at least two months.

Brooks — a former Towers Perrin partner — had turned down IPG at least once during the negotiation process. While he has accepted an offer of employment from IPG, he hasn’t signed a contract yet. Some close to Brooks insist, however, he won’t reverse direction, having taken months now to arrive at his final decision. Brooks, who was at work at WPP last week, declined comment.

Aside from the 12-month notice period, there are still other issues that could eventually end up in court. Still to be resolved is Brooks’ non-compete agreement, which kicks in for two years after the expiration of his notice period. In addition, WPP could pursue additional legal action if it finds evidence that Brooks was induced to break his contract with the company.

IPG and WPP declined comment.