Henkel sues Church & Dwight, former CTO in noncompete case

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Henkel, the German consumer products company that’s moving its North American headquarters to Stamford this year, is suing Church & Dwight, a competitor in the laundry detergent space, to prevent it from poaching its former chief technology officer.

Henkel, which completed its acquisition of Wilton-based laundry and homecare company The Sun Products Corp. last year for $3.6 billion, alleges that Ewing, N.J.-based Church & Dwight and Carlos Linares, former Sun CTO, have violated noncompete agreements.

Linares became Henkel’s senior vice president of research and development and regulatory affairs for North America upon completion of the Sun deal. According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, he then traveled to Henkel’s headquarters in Dusseldorf to learn more about the company’s product pipeline and strategy. Linares resigned from Henkel on Dec. 5, announcing his hiring by Church & Dwight, which had also explored acquiring Sun last year.

Linares was scheduled to begin working at Church & Dwight last week. However, Judge Warren Eginton issued a temporary order blocking that move based on Henkel’s contention that it violates the non-compete agreement that Linares signed, which prevents him from performing similar work for a competitor for one year after exiting Henkel.

Henkel also maintains that Linares “duped” it into agreeing to a $400,000 severance package, alleging that he negotiated the package in bad faith as he did not disclose his then-current negotiations to join Church & Dwight.

Henkel’s suit asks the court for damages and interest, to prevent Church & Dwight from hiring Linares until late April 2018, and to bar Linares from joining any other competitor for one year.

Henkel’s products include Sun, All and Snuggle, while Church & Dwight’s include Arm & Hammer, OxiClean, and Pepsident.

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