(CN) – The former head of “reality television” at the William Morris Agency, who says he was the only board member to vote against its merger with the rival Endeavor agency, claims the merged agency and several of his former colleagues defrauded and defamed him and wrongfully fired him.
In his complaint in Santa Monica Superior Court, John Ferriter also accuses the company and its agents Ari Emanuel, Richard Rosen and Mark Itkin of conspiring to separate him from his clients. He seeks $25 million in damages.
Ferriter says he worked his way up from lowly assistant to executive vice president and worldwide head of non-scripted television at William Morris.
Ferriter said he negotiated a 4-year contract with Itkin, former Chairman of the Board Jim Wiatt and Chief Operating Officer Irv Weintraub in December 2008. He says it guaranteed him at least $2 million a year, retention of his title and staff, and a promise that he would remain a member of the William Morris board indefinitely.
He says his colleagues never told him that merger talks with Endeavor were taking place, or that because of proposed merger he could lose the positions he had just been promised him.
Ferriter says he signed his new contract in January 2009. Four months later he heard rumors of the merger, and confronted Wiatt and Weintraub, who denied it was happening.
Within days, however, the merger was presented to the William Morris Board of Directors as a fait accompli, and Ferriter was the sole objector, questioning whether the board had performed due diligence, he says.
Ferriter claims that Emanuel and Rosen, two of Endeavor’s top agents, assured him there would be no changes to his job regardless of his vote against the deal. Immediately after the merger was approved, Ferriter says, he fell seriously ill.
When he returned to work in mid-summer, he learned that was not on the new agency’s board, was no longer head of his department, and that much of his authority and responsibilities had been reassigned to subordinates, the complaint states.
With tensions mounting, Ferriter said Emanuel, Rosen and Itkin embarked on an “intentional and malicious course of conduct” to separate him from his clients.
The scheme included telling his clients’ managers that he had left the agency, and planting a false story in a widely read industry blog that Ferriter “hated coming into the office,” according to the complaint.
His relationship with the new company and its officers deteriorated, culminating in pretextual claims that he was insubordinate, “not a team player” and a “troublemaker,” Ferriter says.
He was barred from meetings and company events, barred from speaking with fellow employees and barred from even entering its premises, Ferriter says.
Ferriter said he continued to try to serve his clients as best he could, without adequate resources, despite these and other acts of harassment, retaliation and reprisals.
On Nov. 6, the company called a town hall-style meeting and announced that Ferriter had been terminated for “cause,” purportedly for insubordination, according to the complaint.
Ferriter wants damages for fraud in the inducement, misrepresentation, breach of contract, defamation and conversion. He is represented by Patricia Kramer with Neasham & Kramer in Gold River, Calif.