Will Y&R Have to Wait a Year for Tony Granger?

NEW YORK So much for Lovemarks. Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts—who penned a book about getting consumers to literally fall in love with brands—is playing hardball with one of his own.

Roberts doesn’t plan on letting New York chief creative officer Tony Granger go quietly. In fact, at an all-staff meeting held to share the news that Granger had resigned to become the worldwide creative director at Young & Rubicam, Roberts said he intended to enforce the terms of his contract—which calls for one year’s notice and therefore delay his start at the WPP Group competitor, sources said.

Roberts took what one source described as a “hard-line” attitude at the meeting, particularly when compared to New York CEO Mary Baglivo, who acknowledged Granger’s contributions and said he’d be missed.

The meeting took place in an atrium-like opening in Saatchi’s building that extends from the 16th to the 18th floor, with Granger peering down from an upper floor as Roberts spoke, sources said. Granger, the top creative at Saatchi’s New York headquarters since October 2004, did not return calls for comment.

For now, Y&R is in a holding pattern, waiting for Granger—who is still toiling away at Saatchi—to be released from his contract. Y&R was aware of the notice period going in and appears willing to wait as long as it takes. The shop will be “very patient,” said one source.

In his new job, Granger will become the top creative globally, overseeing the work of more than 180 offices. He will report to worldwide CEO Hamish McLennan. McLennan and Y&R declined to comment.

Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi, meanwhile, is in the process of recruiting Granger’s successor and is said to be talking to a handful of candidates. Once Saatchi fills the post, sources said the agency might loosen the reins on Granger, but that remains to be seen. Roberts did not return phone and e-mail messages on Friday.

Some sources believe that the tough stance adapted by Roberts—and Publicis—is due to WPP CEO Martin Sorrell’s behavior in the past, as he has held back several employees from leaving his agencies to join competitors. Two such cases involved Brian Brooks and Steve Blamer, both who quit to join Interpublic Group shops.

In the end, IPG had to wait a year for Brooks to start as evp of human resources in October 2002. That holdup also involved a lawsuit under which WPP sought to sideline Brooks, its chief human resources officer, for two years because, in addition to his one-year notice period, his contract stipulated he could not work for a competitor for 48 months.

The suit, which came before London’s High Court, was settled out of court, days before a trial was to begin. Under the settlement, Brooks had to honor the one-year notice period.

In the case of Blamer, he accepted an offer to become worldwide CEO of IPG’s Foote, Cone & Belding in December 2004, when he was North American president and CEO of WPP’s Grey in New York.

But given the terms of Blamer’s WPP contract, he wasn’t able to start until June 2005.