Courting Clients

A pair of lawsuits pitting IMG Worldwide and a former employee against one another over non-compete clauses and trade secrets could have lasting effects for the agency biz.

When junior IMG sports agent Matthew Baldwin jumped ship for CAA last month, the agency cried foul.

IMG filed suit April 15 in U.S. District Court in Ohio alleging that Baldwin, while still employed at the Cleveland-based IMG, had schemed with CAA to recruit clients away from IMG and interfere with IMG’s business.

The suit makes several claims against Baldwin including breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of duty of good faith and of loyalty.

Baldwin countered with a filing of his own against IMG, claiming that after working for years at the company and developing an “excellent reputation … in the business of representing coaches,” he grew increasingly dissatisfied with his “inadequate compensation and the lack of a career path.”

He was given a written offer to join CAA’s Coaches Division in California March 18, the suit says, but was advised he could not bring over former clients unless a court ruled he was no longer bound by a non-compete clause under his IMG contract.

On April 2, the day Baldwin resigned from IMG, he filed suit against his former employer to void the non-compete clause.
IMG’s suit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions to keep Baldwin from soliciting IMG clientele for two years and from disclosing any IMG trade secrets, damages and attorneys fees and costs.

A major factor in the case apparently rests on the proper venue of the dispute. If the battle continues in Ohio courts, the non-compete would likely be covered by state law. However, if the case continues in California, attorneys for Baldwin claimed in court papers the clause would be unenforceable.