AlixPartners sues consultants who jumped to McKinsey

Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:10pm EDT

Fred Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of AlixPartners, speaks at the Reuters Private Equity and Hedge Funds Summit in New York March 3, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Fred Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of AlixPartners, speaks at the Reuters Private Equity and Hedge Funds Summit in New York March 3, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - AlixPartners, a leading business turnaround advisory firm, sued two former managing directors on claims they breached employment contracts and stole trade secrets after they jumped to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Eric Thompson of Singapore and Ivo Naumann of Shanghai allegedly took to McKinsey confidential marketing materials, client information and even contacts of Lisa Donahue, the global leader of Alix's restructuring practice.

The pair violated their employment agreements and their duties to AlixPartners, according to the complaint filed late Wednesday in Delaware's Court of Chancery.

Alix asked the court to bar the pair from using the information they took and from soliciting other Alix employees. The firm also asked the court to bar Thompson from working for McKinsey for a year.

"This is an egregious case in which we allege that two trusted partners brazenly sent highly sensitive information from their work to their personal email accounts on the eve of their departures for McKinsey," said Jason Schwartz, a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who represents Alix.

McKinsey declined to comment. The lawsuit said McKinsey's chief executive, Dominic Barton, told Alix he expected Thompson and Naumann to honor their commitments.

A spokesman for AlixPartners declined to comment.

McKinsey is among the most influential consulting firms in the world and specializes in strategic planning. In recent years, it has been expanding into the restructuring of ailing companies.

"McKinsey is using this as a point of entry for its other advisory businesses, such as marketing strategy and supply chain management," said David Pauker of Goldin Associates, which specializes in advising companies in financial distress.

McKinsey has been playing catch-up to the major players in the field, such as FTI Consulting Inc, Alvarez & Marsal and Alix, in part by recruiting their staff.

In the middle of 2013, Thompson and Naumann were recruited by McKinsey director Jon Garcia and were encouraged to leave by McKinsey's Barton, according to the lawsuit. Barton even approved a special arrangement for Naumann, allowing him to serve as a partner of both McKinsey and its Recovery and Transformation Services unit.

Naumann allegedly forwarded numerous documents to his Yahoo! email account in the days prior to his departure. These included salary and bonus information for Alix consultants, client pitches and AlixPartners' revenue parameters for Asia, which was sent to him from the firm's chief executive, Fred Crawford. Crawford instructed Naumann not to share it with anyone, according to the lawsuit.

Naumann was so busy forwarding information to his personal email account, according to the lawsuit, that he lost track of what he had and took some reports more than once.

"Mr. Naumann appeared to be making a frantic effort to steal whatever documents he could before he left AlixPartners," the lawsuit said.

Thompson joined Alix's Hong Kong office in May 2011 after stints with oil producer Rubicon Offshore International, as chief restructuring officer, and the Harmony Capital Partners hedge fund. Naumann joined Alix in 2007 in Shanghai.

The case is AlixPartners LLP v Eric Thompson and Ivo Naumann, Delaware Court of Chancery, No. 9523

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Andre Grenon and Leslie Adler)

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