LOS ANGELES: Southern California PR veteran Marci Blaze is entangled in a legal battle with the agency that bears her name.
The clash between Blaze, founder and former CEO of The Blaze Company, and the firm's current owners, Santa Barbara, CA-based Davies, has involved accusations ranging from breach of contract to trespassing to embezzlement.
Now in its fourth month, one thing is clear: Blaze is out, but her eponymous firm continues to operate as part of the Davies network.
When Davies acquired The Blaze Company in April 2004, Blaze had been "contemplating retirement," according to documents filed in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles Country. But as part of the acquisition, Blaze agreed to stay with the then-Venice, CA-based agency, serving as CEO and overseeing daily operations for five years.
In mid-January, 2006 – less than halfway into her earn-out period – Blaze rescinded on the agreement, informing Davies executives of her decision when they arrived at The Blaze Company offices for a scheduled meeting, according to court documents. Blaze was concerned the direction of her company under Davies' ownership was "contrary to my best financial and professional interests," documents state. When Davies "refused" to recognize Blaze's request for an agreement termination, Blaze called the police, asking that the executives be removed from the office space leased in her name.
According to documents filed by Davies' attorneys, in the days following the office altercation, Blaze changed the property's locks and computer passwords, and failed to deposit checks representing $42,000 in account receivables; on Jan 18, documents note, she was formally dismissed from her CEO position.
Shortly thereafter, Davies filed a cross-complaint alleging that Blaze had "breached her employment agreement" by failing to follow instructions, creating a negative work environment, and failing to truthfully communicate to the staff Davies' ownership role, among other issues. Davies, which within days relocated the leader-less Blaze Company offices to Santa Monica, was also issued a temporary restraining order against its former CEO.
Last month, attorneys for both Blaze and Davies filed a series of amended complaints and responses. Blaze, who has not worked in PR since her dismissal, contends she was terminated without good cause and that Davies "fraudulently concealed material facts" related to the companies' relationship; she continues to call for compensation. For its part, Davies continues to insist Blaze was not wrongfully fired and is not entitled to damages based on her "scheme to steal the business assets."
While all parties involved acknowledge that Blaze is no longer with The Blaze Company, Blaze herself chose not to comment, other than to note the matter was "in litigation."
Davies Principal Brandon Edwards, who described Blaze's initial rescission as "unexpected," referred queries to the legal documents, pointing to Davies' policy not "to violate the confidentiality" of an employee's departure. He also said The Blaze Group was in the process of hiring a "senior-level person" to service accounts and assist in leading the Los Angeles-area practice.
In the event that Blaze and Davies do not reach an out-of-court settlement in the next few weeks, a jury trial is scheduled for August 11 in Santa Monica.