High Profile Executive: Battle Titans of Wall Street

TAKING ON THE TITANS OF WALL STREET

Breaking "The Frame"


At the time of N&A's engagement, this high-profile executive, credited with restoring profitability to a previously bankrupt consumer products company, was fired - purportedly for cause - by his own board of directors. The acrimony between the board and the executive was aired in the press and the reasons given for the firing were certain "inappropriate behaviors" allegedly exhibited by our client. We were retained to refute the allegations and restore our client's reputation, and by doing so, to assist him in his litigation efforts over his ouster.

Background and Situation Analysis

Our client, along with two well-known fund managers, formed a limited partnership to acquire a controlling interest in a troubled, publicly held consumer products company and take it out of bankruptcy. The fund managers (the co-investors) were well-known investors in distressed companies who frequently funded hostile takeovers. Our client was incentivized with a carried interest in the limited partnership entitling him to a disproportionate amount of the early returns to the partnership by this investment. When the magnitude and speed of the company's return to profitability greatly exceeded expectations, our client was contractually entitled to a sizable, early distribution. In addition, he had an employment contract, which provided for a substantial severance package-unless the termination was for cause.

In an apparent attempt to "recut" their deal with our client, the co-investors decided to oust him from management and from the partnership. The representatives of the co-investors on the board of directors fired our client, purporting to do so with cause....the cause being the "inappropriate behaviors" of our client. The board members who orchestrated the "coup" then leaked the matter to the press. Our client filed suit over his termination, seeking to enforce the partnership agreement and claim damages for defamation.

By trying their case in the press and sullying the reputation of our client, the co-investors stood to benefit in three ways:

  1. If the allegations of misconduct were "proven," the company would not have to pay out the substantial severance package.
  2. Proof of misconduct would defeat the defamation suit filed by our client.
  3. Proof of misconduct could be used to justify unwinding the partnership agreement.

The Plan

Prior to our involvement, the well-aired accusations against our client went unchallenged. N&A's mission was to turn the tide of public opinion by focusing the media on the business facts related to the dramatic turnaround that our client orchestrated as CEO of the company. Our goal was to "reframe" the story with leading national news media outlets and, by doing so, to occasion a settlement of the outstanding litigation favorable to our client.

N&A developed a comprehensive communications strategy with a highly aggressive, proactive media relations campaign as its centerpiece. A series of extensive editorial background sessions were conducted with major news and business publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, Institutional Investor, Forbes, Business Week, The Boston Globe, Providence Journal Bulletin, The American Lawyer, CBS News, Bloomberg Business News, Associated Press and Reuters.

The communications strategy was directed at discouraging or re-directing negative media coverage of our client and, where necessary, replacing it with informed responsible commentary. In several instances, N&A was able to diffuse TV tabloid journalism and print media "exposés" on our client. In fact, the stories never ran. As the legal battle began to unfold, N&A stayed in close contact with the media to ensure accurate reporting.

Results

  • The media coverage of our client turned positive.
  • Commentary began to be directed at questionable business practices of the co-investors' sponsors.
  • Efforts to try the case in the press backfired - benefiting our client.
  • Our client received a personal financial settlement of over $150 million and was vindicated. His name and reputation were protected and he was able to pursue new opportunities.