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Louis-Dreyfus accuses Saatchi brothers of greed

ROBERT Louis-Dreyfus, the French businessman who quit his job as chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi in early 1993, has accused the Saatchi brothers of acting greedily over an investment he and they made in Adidas, the sportswear company of which he is now chief executive.

"They were offered a free lunch and asked for the whole restaurant,'' Mr Louis-Dreyfus is quoted as saying in Vanity Fair magazine, the first time he has spoken out about the Adidas affair. The article in the magazine's June issue, which is out this week, says the Saatchi brothers turned a private investment of $10,000 worth of Adidas shares into $38m in less than two years.

It adds that news of the windfall was revealed last December at the same board meeting at which Maurice Saatchi was sacked as chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi. The two brothers have since formed the New Saatchi agency,

Saatchi & Saatchi, now renamed Cordiant, is pursuing a legal battle in the hope of reclaiming the money the Saatchi brothers made on the Adidas investment, arguing that the money is owed to them because the Saatchi brothers made the money for providing services in their capacity as employees of Saatchi & Saatchi. Last week, it emerged that the New Saatchi agency in turn might be taking legal action against Cordiant to prevent a report being sent to shareholders containing details about the brothers' pension arrangements.

One of Adidas's shareholders, Christian Tourres, is quoted as saying in the article: "(Maurice) Saatchi is absolutely ruthless. We were trying to work between friends and Mr Saatchi is not of this calibre." Mr Louis- Dreyfus initially persuaded the Saatchi brothers to join him in a purchase of some Adidas stock, an investment that included an option to buy further shares in the company.

Later on, the brothers felt that Mr Louis-Dreyfus was planning to circumvent the option and cut them out. They won an injunction against him in the British High Court and launched legal action against him in France, Belgium and Germany.

Last December, two weeks before the fateful board meeting, the legal wrangle between Mr Louis-Dreyfus and the brothers came to an end when the Saatchis' interest in the Adidas option was bought out for $38m.