Saatchi Accused over Missing Files ; Founder Sets Up New Agency as Top Clients Walk Out

Article excerpt

Maurice Saatchi, the deposed chairman of the advertising agency which bears his name, was last night involved in a row over missing company files after a day in which two of the agency's top clients quit.

The row emerged as Mr Saatchi announced he was setting up his own rival agency with three colleagues who resigned in protest after he was sacked. Yesterday, four more executives resigned from Saatchi & Saatchi.

Last night, the company lost British Airways and Mirror Group Newspapers as clients and with them more than pounds 120m of business. Dixon's, the high street retail chain, is considering withdrawing its pounds 40m account and the confectionery group Mars could be next.

The losses came as the company alleged Mr Saatchi, who founded Saatchi & Saatchi with his brother, Charles, in the 1970s, had removed filing cabinets containing confidential papers and kept them at an address in north London.

The company threatened to sue for the return of the papers and to sue all former employees if they started up as rivals before the end of contracts banning them from competing for at least 12 months.

Maurice Saatchi plans to call his business The New Saatchi Agency, and will cover the start-up costs with his own money.

He will be joined by Jeremy Sinclair, who was Saatchi's chief creative director and acting chairman for three weeks, Bill Muirhead, who was US branch chief, and David Kershaw, who was in charge of European operations.

The four who resigned were Moray MacLennan and Nick Hurell, joint managing directors of the London agency, and Simon Dicketts and James Lowther, joint creative directors. They worked on accounts such as Schweppes, Gillette, British Telecom and the National Lottery. It is unclear whether they will join the new agency.

Saatchi & Saatchi said it threatened Maurice with legal action after finding 15 filing cabinets, some containing confidential information about clients, had been taken from it's London headquarters.

Some 21 crates were returned yesterday, but Maurice Saatchi is refusing to return the rest. He insists they be kept in a locked room with the only keys held by his and the company's lawyers.

Maurice Saatchi left the company completely a few days into the new year. Three weeks earlier, he had been ousted as chairman following weeks of boardroom politics involving some big shareholders, particularly in America. …