Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Looks like Dentsu has skeletons in the Attik

Just when it looked like Dentsu was joining the ranks of agencies that were viewed less for their nationality than for their advertising acumen, Steve Biegel, a former New York creative director at the agency, has sued it for sexual harassment. But this suit probably isn't what you're thinking. Biegel, in a suit that was filed—somehow befittingly—on Halloween, says that his male Japanese boss, Toyo Shigeta, the head of Dentsu Holdings USA, forced him into visiting brothels, distributed lewd pictures of, among other females, tennis star Maria Sharapova (specifically of her crotch), which Shigeta took on a Canon shoot in October 2004 and also insisted that Biegel and others hang out nude in a hot tub with him, which, the suit says, left Biegel "offended and humiliated by this outrageous, sexually degrading experience imposed on him as a condition of his employment." Biegel, after complaining, was fired in November 2006, roughly six months after the bath-house incident. Dentsu so far is only saying that they haven't seen the suit. But there's a lot more to this story—among other things, the crotch-shot of Sharapova has been entered into evidence. Trust me. There's much more to come. UPDATE: Dentsu has since released a statement, which I found on Ad Age's Web site: "Steve Biegel is a former employee who was terminated almost a year ago. When Dentsu refused to yield to Mr. Biegel's unreasonable demands, he made outrageous allegations which the company has refuted. He has now filed a claim to obtain money to which he is not entitled, for incidents he alleges took place over three years ago and which he never complained about while an employee of Dentsu. The company intends to counterclaim that Mr. Biegel has libeled Dentsu and defrauded the company. We look forward to the opportunity to vindicate our company in court."
MORE UPDATE: I talked to Andy Dwyer, the lawyer for Steve Biegel, who says that Biegel did complain while employed at Dentsu, to both Toyo Shigeta and Ron Rosen, who was Biegel's boss. In addition, Dwyer said that Rosen has confirmed that Biegel complained to him. A Dentsu spokesperson said, "I know nothing about Rosen at all," and, concerning the picture of Maria Sharapova, said, "We expect that Maria's agent will weigh in on this in support of Dentsu."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting how the cultural differences between Japan and the US will play out on this one. It seems to me (from the outside looking in) that Japanese business culture is very much like a fraternity. Hence, the quick denial.