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Agency.com is suing iCrossing, alleging that the rival digital ad shop poached its employees and clients. The WSJ reports the Omnicom unit is seeking at least $19.5 million in damages in the suit, filed in Dallas state court. Back in September, we noted that Agency.com had been plagued by high-profile departures over the past few years.
The company is now blaming a lot of those exits on iCrossing and its CEO Donald Scales — himself a former CEO of Agency.com. Scales defected to iCrossing in 2006, becoming president and COO; he was bumped up to CEO last May. The suit seeks to hold Scales and iCrossing responsible for the closing of Agency.com’s Dallas office and the “decimation” of its Chicago office due to the “raiding” of the company’s staff. The suit also claims that Scales and other former Agency.com employees tried to persuade Agency.com clients to transfer business to iCrossing. The company alleges that some of the former staffers solicited clients on iCrossing’s behalf even before they had left Agency.com.
Although agency execs tend to hop around a lot, this kind of suit is unusual. But the year-old ad downturn is deepening, and Agency.com was struggling even before that. And the subject of talent — namely, the lack of it — has been coming up more frequently at industry conferences. With the end of last year’s M&A frenzy, agencies have been more intent on building and securing execs who can bridge traditional agency and digital roles. Those skills are few and far between and agencies haven’t been able to develop them overnight.