DETROIT –- Ford Motor Co. has filed a lawsuit against Marty Collins, a former executive whom the company alleges violated a non-compete agreement by taking a job with Gulf States Toyota earlier this month, The Detroit News reported today.
The employment contract Collins signed with Ford prohibited him from taking a job with any competitor for two years following any leave of employment with Ford, The News reported.
In March, Ford had rehired Collins, then 48, from Group 1 Automotive Inc., the nation's fourth-largest dealership group, where he had been vice president of the western region. Before joining Group 1 in 2006, Collins had been with Ford for 21 years.
Ford hired Collins to manage the dealer distribution network for Ford and Lincoln, effective Oct. 1, and to provide "ongoing feedback to senior Ford management regarding sales performance, sales trends and progress toward program and budget goals," the lawsuit states.
He was paid an annual salary of $400,000 by Ford, with a signing bonus of $900,000, in addition to a guaranteed bonus of $123,000 for the first year of work and a guaranteed stock award of $127,000 for the first year.
Gulf States Toyota president
Collins told Ford on Oct. 13 that he planned to go to work for Gulf States Toyota, a Houston-based distributorship, as president, the Detroit newspaper reported.
He resigned from Ford on Nov. 1.
A spokeswoman for Gulf States Toyota -- which distributes vehicles in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma -- said the company was unaware of the lawsuit and was not in a position to comment.
On Nov. 2, Ford told Gulf States Toyota that it planned to enforce its non-compete agreement. Gulf States lawyer William John Bux responded and said it would not violate the non-compete agreement.
On Nov. 7, Bux told Ford that Collins was being hired as a vice president at the Friedkin Group, a Houston-based investment firm that owns Gulf States, The News reported.
Ford wants a judge to bar Collins from working for Gulf States Toyota and Friedkin Group until May 2012.
Collins, however, told Ford he had not acquired any confidential information during his tenure at the company, The News reported, suggesting that he had not violated his agreement.
"Mr. Collins will not be engaged in business activities competitive with Ford and will not be interacting with Gulf States Toyota, at least until the non-compete issue is resolved to its satisfaction," Bux wrote in a letter to Ford's outside counsel, The Detroit Free Press reported.
The lawsuit was originally filed last week in Wayne County, Mich., circuit court in Detroit and has since moved to the U.S. District Court in Detroit, according to The News.