WPP's Scrap With Aegis Flares as Italian Probe Widens

21 February 2006

Currently enduring a furuncular outbreak with which Job would empathise, WPP Group's latest tribulation is handed down not by God but an even higher authority - the French Supreme Court.

It has ordered WPP's Paris-based media hotshop KR Media to hand over documents relating to a client-poaching dispute with the local office of Carat France.

The papers relate to two former Carat executives - Bruno Kemoun and Eryck Rebbouh - who quit the Aegis-owned shop in November 2003 citing 'strategic differences'. The duo's contracts prohibited them from soliciting any Aegis client within twelve months.

In January 2004 Kemoun and Rebbouh launched KR Media backed by WPP, which holds a 20% stake in the business. Within the twelve months limit, several Carat clients migrated to KRM, prompting Aegis to sue the new agency for alleged 'poaching' and breach of contract.

A judge found in favour of KRM - a verdict subsequently overturned by an appeal court on grounds that its defence had "serious flaws" [WAMN: 12-Jan-05].

With the latest court order to release key documentation, Carat appears to have gained the initiative - although enrapt onlookers can be assured that it'll be a long, long time before the fat lady's final encore.

  • Meantime, the web uncovered in WPP's 'Italian Job' investigations gets ever more extensive.

    The latest name to materialize from the probe is that of Mainardo de Nardis, ceo of WPP's Mediaedge:cia and currently on 'gardening leave' before joining Aegis later this year.

    According to The Times of London, it is alleged (by whom is unstated) that de Nardis has been in contact with rival marketing group Babila about "business matters". Babila, in turn, is said to have associations with former WPP Italia country manager Marco Benatti and his banker brother Vittorio.

    All of which is currently under investigation by WPP's US forensic accounting specialist Kroll. A probe that increasingly resembles a black comedy by Dario Fo with additional material by Franz Kafka.

    Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK) and The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff