October 8, 2009 / 2:30 AM / 9 years ago

Starbucks sues former exec for working for rival

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Coffee retailer Starbucks Corp is suing a former executive it accuses of violating non-competition and separation agreements when he went to work for rival Dunkin’ Donuts.

A sign is seen on a Starbucks outlet in Golden, Colorado September 29, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Seattle-based Starbucks said it is suffering ongoing harm as long as Paul Twohig, a former division senior vice president, remains employed at Dunkin’ Donuts, according to the complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Seattle.

At the time of his departure from Starbucks in March 2009, Twohig was senior vice president, overseeing the coffee retailer’s Southeast Division. He was responsible for developing Starbucks brand for thousands of retail stores and formulating business plans to respond to competitors such as Dunkin’ Donuts, the complaint says.

The dominant coffee purveyor has been challenged by lower cost rivals such as Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s Corp, which now offer similar fancy coffee drinks.

Starbucks wants Twohig to leave Dunkin’ Donuts and is suing for at least $75,000.

Twohig started with Starbucks in 1996 and left in 2002. He returned in 2004, signing a non-compete agreement, which prohibited for 18 months from working as a manager for any competitor with 50 miles of a Starbucks, according to the complaint. When he left, he received “substantial” severance and signed a separation agreement.

According to the complaint, Twohig in August asked to be released from the non-compete agreement so he could take a job with Canton, Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts. Starbucks refused.

Through an Internet search, Starbucks on October 3, learned Twohig had accepted a position with Dunkin’ Donuts.

Calls left at Twohig’s home were not returned.

Editing by Lincoln Feast

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