Zenith Media has defended its court action to enforce clauses in
its contract with Christine Walker, its former chief executive, as a
defensive move to protect its shareholders’ interests.
John Perriss, chairman and chief executive of Zenith Worldwide, denied
that the company had vindictive intentions. He said: ’There’s no
vendetta and we have no problem about Christine setting up a business.
We wish her well. We are seeking to get her contract upheld. We have to
validate that (contract) and can only do that in the courts.’
Perriss added that Zenith had a duty to its shareholders to show that
everything had been done to defend the company’s position - even if
there was no evidence that Walker had made, or intended to make, any
moves that would break her contract.
The action comes at a sensitive time for Zenith, whose parent company,
Cordiant, is preparing to demerge its two ad networks, Saatchi & Saatchi
and Bates Worldwide.
At the court hearing on Tuesday, the judge said Walker’s contract and
its restrictive covenant clause - which prevents her from approaching
any Zenith clients or employees for a further 12 months from 25 October,
when her gardening leave ends - appeared to be valid.
He suggested, however, that if Walker was unhappy with the decision and
wanted to go into the contract in more detail, a hearing would take
place in mid-November. For 14 days following Tuesday’s hearing, Zenith
has been granted an interim injunction which holds Walker to her
Restrictive covenants are open to interpretation. Jane Sullivan, an
associate at the legal firm, the Simkins Partnership, said: ’It depends
entirely on the interpretation of the wording of the contract.’
Sullivan said restrictive covenants are void in law unless they protect
a legitimate business interest. ’It must be proved that poaching a
client will affect the business of the original employer.’
The restrictive covenant is only enforceable if it is reasonable, she