PHILADELPHIA – Vernon Hill II has lost the battle for control of Republic Bank.
Now he hopes to win the dogfight with his former company.
Hill, fired in July as chairman and CEO of Republic, sued the firm over ownership of “valuable brand assets” used in advertising campaigns.
These include images of Hill and his Yorkshire terrier, Sir Duffield, and the Republic slogan: “The power of red is back.”
The lawsuit claims the rights to the marketing materials belong to Hill and the design firm run by his wife, Shirley.
The 47-page lawsuit says Hill, a Moorestown resident, left Republic “after a vindictive campaign” by the bank’s current management. It alleges that Republic terminated its contract with Shirley Hill, Moorestown-based InterArch Inc., “out of spite.”
At that point, the lawsuit alleges, Republic’s new management “belatedly realized that the bank could not operate without the valuable brand assets that Mr. Hill and InterArch had brought to it.”
It said Republic continued to use the controversial slogan and other brand assets.
“Indeed, the bank even continued to feature images of Mr. Hill (and the Hills’ dog, Duffy) in its marketing and promotional materials,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 28 in federal court in Philadelphia.
A representative of the Republic did not respond to a request for comment.
The Philadelphia bank has 35 branches in Pennsylvania, South Jersey and New York.
The lawsuit says Hill introduced the marketing elements after arriving at Republic as a consultant and investor in 2008.
It said the promotional material drove home the message that Republic had adopted Hill’s “distinctive brand of customer-focused banking,” including extended hours and coin-counting machines at dog-friendly branches.
Hill previously founded Commerce Bank NA of Cherry Hill and Metro Bank of the United Kingdom. The logos of these banks on the suits contained a “distinct red initial and white lettering on a blue background.”
The lawsuit alleges that InterArch owns the rights to Republic’s similar logo, as well as “photographic and cartoon images” of Duffy and the cartoon character “R-Dog.”
Among other claims, InterArch also asserts ownership of design elements in “countless” brochures, booklets, advertisements and other printed materials.
The suit is interspersed with examples of the controversial material, including illustrations of Hill’s dog.
Hill joined Republic’s board as chairman in 2016 and became CEO in 2021, but faced a revolt from shareholders who felt Republic’s stock was underperforming.
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting the Republic from using the disputed assets. It also seeks unspecified damages for alleged trademark infringement, unjust enrichment and other torts.
The suit also names as defendants two former InterArch employees, Rodney Dean and John Chessa, who took jobs at Republic in September.
He accuses them of “misappropriating or causing the misappropriation of confidential information belonging to InterArch.”
Attorneys for Dean and Chesa could not be reached for comment.
Jim Walsh is a senior reporter for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.