High Court writ cites employees who have since joined Alston Gayler

Willis is suing five former employees for allegedly breaching restrictive covenant agreements after joining rival London broker Alston Gayler.

The five men, cited in a writ lodged in the High Court, have been named as John Brooks, Robert Alexander, Paul Grimshaw, Kenneth Evans and Chris Vanns.

All five men worked for Hilb Rogal & Hobbs, a subsidiary of Willis acquired last October in a $2.1bn (£1.5bn) deal.

Insurance Times understands that the men worked as part of a reinsurance team at Hilb Rogal & Hobbs. Willis has also named Alston Gayler in the writ for its part in luring the team away.

Alston Gayler was not available to comment. Willis said in a statement that it does not comment on “pending litigation”.

It is understood that the reinsurance team worked at broker Glencairn before Hilb Rogal & Hobbs acquired the business in 2006.

A source close to the case said the dispute initially appeared likely to be settled amicably. He added: “However, when the Willis parent company became involved, it suddenly turned legal. I am sure this will be a case of wanting to make an example of the individuals to send a message of ‘hands off’ to the wider market.”

He added, however, that he believed Alston Gayler would want to defend the action.

The source said: “There have been quite a lot of accusations flying around of foul play and poaching in the London market of late, but usually this kind of thing is settled amicably. I understand that Alston Gayler will turn this case to its parent company.”

Alston Gayler is owned by Dutch company Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter Holdings. For the year to 31 December 2007, it reported turnover of £4.9m. 

Law firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert is representing Willis. Ince & Co is acting on behalf of the defendants.