Ex-employees launch minority oppression case against WPP in Singapore

The trial involves the senior management of Grey Group, which absorbed Yolk, began in August 2016. Photo: Mediacorp.

A lawsuit has been launched against WPP in Singapore’s Supreme Court by the minority shareholders of the now-defunct Yolk Pte Ltd, an agency acquired by the network in December 2010. The case commenced yesterday (31 July), The Drum understands.

This minority oppression supreme court trial involves the senior management of Grey Group which absorbed Yolk. The issue came to a head in August 2016 after the minority shareholders issued an internal complaint to WPP about the ‘minority oppressive acts’ of Grey Group APAC chief executive officer Nirvik Singh and chief financial officer Ali Belgaumi.

WPP retaliated by suing former Yolk CEO and chief technology officer and shareholders Benjamin Tan and Adrian Lee respectively, along with five former employees for violating their non-competitive covenants and conspiring to injure Yolk as they had set up businesses in venture building, IoT and social content automation platforms.

The four minority shareholders of Yolk - Benjamin Tan, Adrian Lee, Soh Kee Boon and Low Jun Jek - then countersued WPP, Singh and Belgaumi for minority oppression and making Yolk defunct by retrenching its original employees, transferring all remaining employees and clients to Grey Group Singapore.

Singh, who is WPP's key witness and co-defendant, took the stand during the first two days of hearings. Belgaumi, who is WPP’s second key witness and co-defendant, will take the stand 2 and 3 August 2018.

Scott Spirit, the former chief strategy officer of WPP, will take the stand on 3 August.

WPP is represented by David Chan of Shooklin & Bok, while the minority shareholders and ex-employees of Yolk is represented by Joseph Lee of LVM Law Chambers LLC.

The Drum has reached out to WPP and the minority shareholders of Yolk for their comments. We will update the story as it develops.

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