LONDON — The High Court began hearing the first of Saatchi & Saatchi's legal actions against ousted Chairman Maurice Saatchi on Wednesday, and within hours the company had threatened to press new lawsuits to protect its name.
But Maurice Saatchi appeared to have outmaneuvered his old firm again. His lawyer told the court he had already set up a new advertising agency, with staff, and named it Dress Rehearsal.
Saatchi & Saatchi had been seeking an injunction against Maurice Saatchi and three executives who quit to become partners in his new outfit, accusing them of conspiring to damage its business and poach staff and clients.
But a Saatchi spokesman said the fight did not stop there.
"We will be seeking undertakings from them--and if they are not forthcoming, injunctions--in relation to infringement of the trademark Saatchi & Saatchi and in respect of passing off their services as Saatchi & Saatchi," he said.
Saatchi was founded by the charismatic Maurice Saatchi and his brother, Charles Saatchi, a quarter of a century ago and became the world's biggest and most glamorous ad firm in the 1980s.
Since being fired as chairman in December, Maurice Saatchi had announced he would start a rival agency. It had tentatively been called the New Saatchi Agency.
Maurice Saatchi's lawyer, Gordon Pollock, told the court soon after it convened that Dress Rehearsal was already up and running.
Maurice's self-styled "three amigos"--former Deputy Chairman Jeremy Sinclair and the former heads of the Saatchi & Saatchi Agency Worldwide network on both sides of the Atlantic, Bill Muirhead and David Kershaw--were named in Wednesday's proceedings, which were to last two days.
Justice Jonathan Parker was expected to announce his ruling today.
The group, squaring off for a long and dirty fight, had served fresh writs Tuesday in a bid to stop the team from poaching any Saatchi staff at all, rather than just preventing the three from soliciting colleagues in breach of their contracts.
Maurice Saatchi has already hit back with a writ of his own, claiming the company broke his contract when it fired him.