Somebody doesn't like Sara Lee.
Country crooner Jimmy Dean has filed a lawsuit against Sara Lee Corp. after Sara Lee dumped him last year as the spokesman for the sausage company he founded more than 30 years ago.
The suit alleges that Sara Lee continues to use Dean's name, signature and pictures on its products without Dean's consent and beyond the scope of any agreements the two had. Dean claims that Sara Lee invaded his privacy by misappropriating his name and that Sara Lee has been unjustly enriched by the unlawful activities.
Sara Lee said that the suit has no merit.
"We hope to resolve this matter amicably, however, we will vigorously defend our rights as owner of the Jimmy Dean brand and its trademarks," Julie Ketay, a spokesperson for Sara Lee, said.
Court documents request that Sara Lee cease and desist from using Dean's name, signature or photo on packaging without his permission and to destroy all products that contain such uses. He has also asked the court to require Sara Lee to place disclaimers near any Dean products specifying that no endorsement by Dean exists.
The case centers on details in 1984 and 1994 employment agreements between Consolidated Foods Corp., which purchased the Jimmy Dean Co. in 1984, and a subsequent deal with Sara Lee. (Consolidated had changed its name to Sara Lee in the mid 1980s). Sara Lee terminated its 1994 agreement with Dean in May 2003.
"Since 1994, we have continued to pay Mr. Dean a very generous pension in recognition of his contributions as the founder of the Jimmy Dean Meat Co., and we will continue to do so for the rest of his life," Ketay said.
The suit was filed Feb. 25 in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas Lubbock Division.
The 75-year-old Dean told The Associated Press that last year "the company told me they were trying to attract the younger housewife and they didn't think I was the one to do that."
The Jimmy Dean line includes the well-known roll sausage, as well as bacon, sandwiches and appetizers. Jimmy Dean founded the Jimmy Dean Co. in 1969 in his hometown of Plainview, TX.
In February, Sara Lee named TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles as its agency of record for the estimated $40 million Jimmy Dean and Ball Park accounts. Sara Lee broke off with Leo Burnett, Chicago, last November.