Universal McCann, George Hayes Reach Settlement

Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann and George Hayes, the agency’s former evp, client services, have reached a settlement in their two-and-a-half year legal fight that began after Hayes’ termination by the media shop and his subsequent lawsuit claiming he was the victim of age discrimination.

The suit had been scheduled to go trial next month. In February, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein denied UM’s motion for summary dismissal of the case, allowing the case to proceed.

But the judge also encouraged both sides to work out a settlement, sources said.

Hayes confirmed that the settlement was finalized “about two weeks ago. We did reach a resolution that we both found agreeable so I withdrew the litigation.”

Neither side would comment on the terms of the agreement.

Hayes was dismissed from UM in February 2006, at age 53, a few months after the arrival of Nick Brien as worldwide chief executives. (Brien has subsequently been promoted to CEO of Mediabrands, which oversees both of IPG’s big media agency networks, UM and Initiative.)

In his initial complaint, Hayes charged that Brien had been vocal in his view that younger staff members at the agency’s New York office “got it” in terms of new media in the digital age, implying that older workers were lacking.

Hayes also claimed in his suit that Brien viewed “age and experience as a hindrance, rather than as a benefit” and that “‘young’ was valued in place of age.”

In subsequent court filings, McCann and Brien vehemently denied Hayes’ allegations.

It was unclear which side reached out first to begin settlement talks. Hayes’ view: “It wasn’t one side or the other; we came to terms together.”

Hayes said he was happy to have the case behind him.

“Now I can move on and we’ll see what is next for me,” he said.

After UM, he served for a time as vp, marketing and sales at Spiral Frog, an online music service, but left earlier this year. Now, he said, he’s considering a wide variety of options, including a consultancy that would focus on media and marketing integration strategies. Teaching is also a possibility.