Thursday, August 30, 2012

10457: Sex & Startups.

Jim Edwards at Business Insider published a follow-up report on the sex discrimination lawsuit involving MSLGroup honchos Jim Tsokanos and Neil Dhillon. Tsokanos has stepped down from his role as MSLGroup North America President, replaced by a female executive—although officials insist the move is not tied to the lawsuit. The company statement claims Tsokanos “has decided to leave…to move to a more entrepreneurial venture.” Amazing how sexual harassment charges can inspire entrepreneurship. Anyone want to guess the number of Madison Avenue startups that have launched after some bigwig was shuttled off upon getting caught making inappropriate moves on coworkers?

MSLGroup Chief Steps Down Following Sex Discrimination Suit

By Jim Edwards

MSLGroup North America president Jim Tsokanos has stepped down and been replaced by Renee Wilson, MSL’s chief client officer and managing director of its New York HQ. Wilson also runs MSL’s Procter & Gamble business—a key account at the agency. Tsokanos leaves after he was named in a potentially devastating proposed class action sex discrimination lawsuit by six of his former colleagues, including two svp/directors of the agency’s healthcare group, Monique da Silva Moore and Maryellen O’Donohue.

MSL, owned by Publicis Groupe, denies the claims and is fighting the suit.

MSL’s global CEO, Olivier Fleurot, also denied that Tsokanos’ departure was linked to the lawsuit. The company said in a statement:

Wilson takes over from Jim Tsokanos who, after 11 years, has decided to leave MSLGROUP to move to a more entrepreneurial venture.

The suit accused Tsokanos of making comments about the appearance of female employees in front of other employees during meetings, and “taking young female employees out for drinks frequently.”

It also accuses Neil Dhillon, managing director of the Washington D.C. office, of stripping down to his boxer shorts and groping several female employees at an office party. (Dhillon in July called an all-hands meeting at his office to deny the claims.)

At any agency, the most important client on the roster is likely to be P&G, the world’s largest advertiser. P&G’s primary consumer target is women and moms, who still make most of the decisions globally when it comes to household cleaners, detergents and personal care shopping.

Even if Tsokanos’ replacement by Wilson is completely unrelated to the suit, the move still sends a strong message to P&G: Our most important executive is now in charge of your business—and she’s a woman.

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