Wilhelmina agency sues company for alleged model poaching – WWD

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Go through Wilhelmina, expect a trial.

Wilhelmina Models Inc., which was founded in 1967, making it one of the oldest model agencies in existence, sued six-year-old The Society, part of Elite World, last week for allegedly taking its models and associated service charges. Wilhelmina is asking a New York court for at least $ 1 million in damages to “ensure that the reprehensible conduct of the Society does not go unpunished.”

In a separate lawsuit, Wilhelmina sued model Francisco Lachowski for leaving the agency “without any justification”, allegedly in violation of her representation agreement which ran until 2021. Lachowski recently signed with The Society, so Wilhelmina asks unspecified damages.

The lawsuits are further attempts to stem the apparent flow of Wilhelmina’s talent, much of which appears to go to the Company. The young agency, established in 2013, recently attracted Taylor Hendrich, who ran Wilhelmina’s group of men until last month when he joined The Society. Earlier this month, Wilhelmina sued three male models who also left the agency for The Society, claiming that they, like Lachowski, violated their individual performance contracts which all run until 2020.

In the million dollar lawsuit against The Society, Wilhelmina told the court she should hold the rival agency liable for damages resulting from its use of the three models it had previously sued, claiming service charges for their campaign work for Old Navy, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s is illegally removed there. Wilhelmina argued that she had negotiated the agreements for the models with these retailers and that she should collect a 20% service charge based on the models’ remuneration. Now, while the models claim to be represented by the Company (which Wilhelmina disputes), Wilhelmina has stated that the Company is “stealing” simply by having them complete the campaign work.

“The Company entered into commitments that Wilhelmina had already obtained, and therefore took the fees that were owed to Wilhelmina,” the agency wrote in its complaint. “In fact, the Company’s alleged tort interference in this lawsuit is simply part of a larger deliberate and malicious plan by the Company to steal the employees, talent and business of Wilhelmina along with its brands.”

A representative of the Company could not be reached for comment.

Not all of Wilhelmina’s employees and talents have joined The Society, but many have left the agency in recent months. In May, Wilhelmina sued five former employees – a scout, three booking agents and a manager – in her women’s group for a “brazen coordinated plot” to harm the agency by ceding role models to another younger rival. , Supreme Model Management. Wilhelmina sued for $ 5 million.

But the case was not over until the employees hit back, telling the court in a joint response that pointed to the CEO Bill wackerman as the cause of the mass exodus. They generally accused him of “a pattern of behavior of frequent harassment”, “mistreatment and abuse” and of creating “a hostile and threatening work environment”.

The case was mutually abandoned shortly after this response, at no cost to either party, according to court records.

Wilhelmina International, the agency’s parent company, is public and in its second quarter financial statements released earlier this month, it shows total revenue down 3.2% year-on-year to 19, $ 9 million and net income up 23.9%, but only $ 451,000. For the six-month period, total revenue was down 0.8% to $ 40 million on net income of $ 342,000, a decrease of 41.9% from a year ago. The company attributed the drop in revenue to a drop in bookings in its studios division, essentially a branded content agency.

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