Image: Women

Women Models filed an “emergency action” in a New York state court on Tuesday to put a stop the an alleged “conspiracy designed to destroy one of the top modeling agencies in the world by unlawfully raiding its employees and models.” On the receiving end of the newly-filed suit: Elite Model Management and a handful of individuals tied to the agency, who allegedly orchestrated a “mass exodus” of 16 model managers and 55 models from Women to Elite between March and July 2019.

According to the complaint, which Women filed in New York Supreme Court, as first reported by the New York Post, the $22 million-plus scheme enacted by Elite got its start when Dejan Markovi, the former Chief Executive Officer of Women, partnered with Sergio Leccese, Women’s former Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, “to sabotage Women from within.” This included “unilaterally changing Women’s contracts to enable Women’s models to cut ties with [the agency] more easily.” Specifically, Women asserts that “Leccese secretly modified some of the models’ contracts with Women to add a ‘key man clause,’ which allowed the model to terminate her contract if 50% of Women’s model managers left.”

With that clause and others in place, the defendants then successfully encouraged 16 model managers, who  “represented almost all of the models at Women,” to leave the company and join Elite, a move that would prompt the newly-added key man clause to come into effect.

Women claims that it only learned of the new contract terms over the past two weeks when models “started invoking the provisions that Leccese added,” including the key man clause. To date, Women claims that 55 models – including Anna Ewers, Behati Prinsloo Levine, Giedre Dukauskaite, Alexina Graham, Ophelie Guillermand, Alana Zimmer, and Alicia Burke – have been lured to Elite. Taken together, the “raid” on the 55 models – whose “annual bookings exceed $22 million” – is part of “an unlawful scheme was carefully planned and orchestrated to inflict maximum harm on Women,” the latter asserts.

With the foregoing in mind, Women has set forth claims of breach of contract and tortious interference, among others, and asked the court to award it monetary damages … but first: injunctive relief in order to immediately – and then for the duration of the suit – prevent the 16 former Women managers from working with Elite or “otherwise engaging in competition with Women,” including recruiting Women’s models or employees to Elite.

As a rep for Women asserted in a media release on Wednesday, New York Supreme Court Judge Melissa Crane issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, “prohibiting Elite New York and its principals, along with the individual model managers, from continuing their scheme to poach [Women’s] employees and models.”

CEO and Co-owner of Elite World Julia Haart said in a statement on Wednesday that “Elite New York owner Eddie Trump and his top deputies have conspired with my key employees to carry out an illegal scheme to raid my agency of the models we represent. Their unlawful conspiracy not only jeopardizes our business — more importantly, I believe it jeopardizes the safety and well-being of the models they are luring to Elite New York — which Eddie co-owns with his brother Jules Trump.”

“It’s no secret that Trump and some of his top associates at Elite New York are modelizers,” Haart continues. “Since I took over as CEO of my company, I have been working to empower our models and teach them how to develop their own identity and brand. I’m standing up to Trump and his cronies because the way they treat models is shameful and goes against the respect and dignity models deserve and everyone in our industry should be fighting for. “

*The case is Men Women N.Y. Model Management, Inc. and Elite World S.A., v. Elite Model Management – New York LLC, et al., 157627/2019 (N.Y.Sup.)