MELBOURNE: It can hardly have come as a bolt from the blue to Australia's George Patterson Y&R agency that it has been dumped by its brewing client Foster's Group.

What's more surprising is that the pair maintained their relationship for as long as they did in the face of a lawsuit brought against the brewer's chief marketer by the agency's parent, WPP Group.

Foster's, maker of brands such as VB, Corona and Cougar, has vigorously denied any connection between the lawsuit against Anthony Heraghty and its decision to dispense with the agency's services.

It insists the sacking relates solely to dissatisfaction with the quality of George Patterson's work for the VB lager brand.

The brewer's general manager of beer category, Peter Sinclair categorically states: "We have become increasingly concerned at their inability to deliver on their outcomes.

"For the last ten months there has been an overarching brief to make VB - our single most important asset - relevant to a new generation of drinkers and they haven't delivered."

But Oz advertising insiders remain unconvinced that revenge is not at the heart of the sacking.

The lawsuit and a string of others have their origins in WPP's acquisition of George Patterson from private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners two years ago.

Allegations have been made over secret payments to and breaches of contract by a number of former agency executives, including Heraghty, who at the time of the acquisition was a senior creative at George Patterson.

He joined Foster's as marketing director late last year.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff