Fair Game for a Poacher?

Article excerpt

Revenge may be a dish best served cold. It may also be sound business strategy. Certainly it fuelled Maurice Saatchi's new agency, M&C Saatchi, to win back pounds 90m of advertising accounts from his old business, Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, last year. Still, with the ending this month of the 12-month moratorium banning him from poaching old clients and ex-staff, observers are questioning the merit of resuming hostilities.

"The war is far from over," says Alison Fendley, author of Commercial Break, the Inside Story of Saatchi & Saatchi. "M&C Saatchi executives have made it clear they would return to battle come the new year." Ron Leagas, chairman of the advertising agency Leagas Shafron Davis and a former Saatchi employee, agrees: "The revenge motive is still prevalent." But, he adds: "It's not healthy for long-term business growth."

The war between Maurice Saatchi and Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency he and his brother, Charles, created, is the most public of battles. After Maurice's ousting by institutional investors in December 1994, a number of top Saatchi & Saatchi personnel defected, taking a number of lucrative clients - including Dixons, British Airways, Qantas, the tobacco company Gallaher and the Mirror Group - with them. All were eager to stick with Maurice.

The reasons vary. Friends - such as the bosses at Mars - did not like the way Maurice had been axed. Others were disillusioned with the old Saatchi & Saatchi. "M&C has the magic. Saatchi & Saatchi, without them, does not," says one. Neither Gallaher nor BA will comment on the split, but John Clare, Dixons group chief executive, says: "An advertising agency account is a people business, not a company business. We stuck with people we know."

After a legal wrangle over the use of the Saatchi name, Maurice and Charles named their new business M&C Saatchi; the old Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide group became Cordiant (the London agency remains Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising). M&C has since won new business, including Sekonda, Head, Courage and Glaxo. By the end of 1995 the company was claiming billings worth pounds 300m and - the icing on the cake - the Tory party parted company with Saatchi & Saatchi after 16 years. …