Former Optimum Sports Exec Sues Omnicom For Wrongful Termination

Veteran sports media executive Ray Katz has sued Omnicom, its OMD and Optimum Sports subsidiaries and the former CFO of those units, Mark Amabile, for discrimination, wrongful termination and fraud in connection with his being laid off from his post as managing director at Optimum Sports in late 2009.

Katz is seeking a minimum of $3 million plus attorney’s fees and other costs, according to court papers filed in New York State Supreme Court earlier this month.

Katz, a former NFL marketing executive and former CMO of The Football Network, worked at OMD’s Optimum Sports unit for a little over five years. The last year he was promoted to managing director, overseeing sports sponsorships and related activities alongside Tom McGovern, also managing director, who oversaw sports media planning and buying.

Katz alleges he was discriminated against on the basis of this age (he turned 50 while at Optimum);  his religion (Judaism) and his marital status (single). He also alleges that Omnicom and its subsidiaries engaged in accounting fraud in violation of the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

Katz also charged that he was fraudulently induced into taking the managing director position, which he claims he was assured would be a permanent post, only to be laid off a little more than a year later.

Katz alleges that Amabile pressured him to make efforts -- with company resources -- to find sponsors for Diamond Nation, a New Jersey baseball camp that Amabile’s son attended. Katz alleged that Amabile was attempting to “curry favor with the camp and its college coaches” in a bid to get his son a college baseball scholarship.

The Katz filing stated that Katz and his team’s time was better spent pursuing work for bigger clients that actually paid for service provided by Optimum Sports, such as State Farm and Visa. While he resisted Amabile’s pressure to do gratis work for the baseball camp, Katz said his team still devoted “several hundred hours of senior staff time” to it. But he alleged that Amabile targeted him when he resisted, an attitude that contributed to Katz’s wrongful termination.

Katz also accused Amabile of directly discriminating against him by “repeatedly” questioning his marital status, “further commenting that plaintiff ‘must be homosexual if he is not married at his age.’”

In addition, Katz alleged that his age “was a primary reason that his position was eliminated.” After his departure, the court filing states, Katz’s duties “were reassigned to younger employees and/or filled by younger employees hired by defendants after his termination.”

Katz also alleged anti-Semitic behavior and attitudes at the Omnicom companies, such as the “mistreatment of Jewish persons employed by the defendants,” including one colleague “who was an excellent performer and in fact forced out by other non-Jewish senior executives.”

On the Sarbanes-Oxley issue, Katz charged that the company “on more than one occasion” attributed revenue generated by his department to other Omnicom subsidiaries in direct violation of the Act.

Shortly after his position was eliminated, Katz was named president of The Leverage Agency, a post he held for about two years. He is now a managing partner at sports marketing firm Source1 Sports.

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