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STAMELMAN v. FLEISHMAN-HILLARD

July 29, 2004.

PETER STAMELMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
FLEISHMAN-HILLARD, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

  Peter Stamelman brings this action against his former employer, Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. ("Fleishman"), alleging that Fleishman fraudulently induced him to accept employment with the company.*fn1 Fleishman now moves for summary judgment.

  II. BACKGROUND

  A. The Facts*fn2

  Fleishman is an international public relations agency with twenty-one offices in the United States. Stamelman has worked in the entertainment industry for almost thirty years, and has held positions at The Economist Group, Creative Artists Agency, ABC Television, The Arts and Entertainment Network, Showtime Networks, and various talent agencies throughout the United States and Europe. Before working for Fleishman, Stamelman was a Vice President at TBWA Entertainment, a division of TBWA/Chiat Day, which is a major advertising agency. Fleishman and TBWA are both subsidiaries of the Omnicom Group.*fn3

  While working for TBWA, Stamelman worked with Fleishman employee Kate Childress on a New Jersey anti-tobacco campaign from January through April 2001.*fn4 Stamelman left TBWA on or about June 1, 2001.*fn5

  Prior to Stamelman's departure from TBWA, Childress suggested that Stamelman talk to Fleishman employees Peter Verrengia and Eric Blinderman about developing an entertainment capability within Fleishman. Stamelman proposed to Blinderman that Fleishman hire him to offer entertainment-based services to Fleishman clients. For example, Stamelman offered to secure celebrity spokespersons for public relations campaigns.*fn6

  Blinderman discussed the idea with Verrengia and Fleishman employee Nancy Seliger, and Stamelman eventually met with Verrengia and Seliger. Stamelman testified that he told Verrengia and Seliger that the new capability would require: (1) "buy in" from Fleishman, that is, Fleishman employees who would propose the new service to existing clients; (2) "buy-in" from clients, that is, an opportunity to present his ideas and services to senior executives at Fleishman's client companies; (3) a travel budget; and (4) a grace period of one year before the new capability would become a profit center for Fleishman.*fn7

  Seliger told Stamelman that clients had expressed interest in entertainment-based projects. Verrengia and Seliger also represented that it would not be a problem for Stamelman to meet with clients' senior management, that he would be able to travel, and that the year-long grace period sounded reasonable.*fn8 On June 12, 2001, Verrengia sent an e-mail to Bill Anderson, a Fleishman Regional President, asking permission to hire Stamelman to set up the entertainment capability. "We are happy to host, incubate, and pay for this experiment in [New York]," he wrote, "but if it's going to work in a significant way, this ultimately has to be a category for the firm as a whole to embrace."*fn9 Anderson responded that Verrengia was free to hire Stamelman.*fn10

  On June 15, 2001, Verrengia sent Stamelman a standard employment offer letter ("the Offer Letter"). Stamelman did not sign the letter because it did not reflect the requirements that Stamelman felt he needed in order to succeed at Fleishman. However, Stamelman verbally accepted Fleishman's offer, and began working for Fleishman on June 19, 2001.*fn11

  During his first few months of employment at Fleishman, Stamelman worked on a business plan and presentation to introduce the new entertainment service to Fleishman offices and clients. Stamelman completed this presentation at the end of August. Blinderman decided that he and Stamelman would travel to Fleishman offices around the United States after Labor Day. Fleishman issued a press release announcing the arrival of Stamelman and the new capability on September 10, 2001.*fn12

  After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Fleishman experienced financial setbacks. The firm instituted a temporary, company-wide policy that precluded employees from making travel arrangements that were not billable to a specific client. Thus, Stamelman was unable to travel to firm offices throughout the country.*fn13

  Though Stamelman tried to present some of his entertainment ideas to Fleishman's clients, the Fleishman employees who were responsible for servicing those clients ("gatekeepers") did not feel that Stamelman offered ideas that their clients could afford, given the post-September 11th economic climate.*fn14 Fleishman itself cut salaries, including Stamelman's, and laid off several senior employees, as it tried to recover from its own financial losses.*fn15 Ultimately, Fleishman decided that it ...


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