Ousted Condé Nast China President Wins Unlawful Dismissal Arbitration

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LONDON — Sophia Liao, former president of Condé Nast China who was unceremoniously let go last September, has won a labor arbitration against the publishing house. Condé Nast China has appealed the decision.

Liao spoke out at the time about the acrimonious split, saying she believed her employment termination was in violation of Chinese law, and she then sought out the Beijing Chaoyang District Labor Personnel Dispute Arbitration Commission. Liao revealed that earlier this month, the commission ruled that it “does not accept the company’s claim about the discharge, and the commission accepts Liao’s claim that Condé Nast China has unlawfully discharged its labor relations.”

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“Although the company appealed this result immediately, but for me, the result of this arbitration is final,” Liao said. “It confirmed that the company either really thought it was legal and didn’t know it was illegal, or it knew it was illegal and still insisted on breaking the law; the former is a matter of professional competence and the latter is a matter of moral bottom line.”

Liao also shared her thoughts on why she was removed. “To put it bluntly, it is very simple. We can not see eye-to-eye. I was the president who was trying to make the Chinese branch of an American business the most localized operation, and the other side is a single-minded headquarters trying to centralize all the power to New York. The two sides have such major differences in values and business points of view that we were destined to split,” she said.

She added that she plans to publish a series of articles weekly detailing how she was illegally removed from the company where she had worked for 20 years.

In the first part published Tuesday, Liao mentioned how she found out the company had been secretly interviewing her replacement from her clients, and how she confronted then Condé Nast chief operating officer Wolfgang Blau about its chief executive officer Roger Lynch’s decision to let her go based on her “poor performance.” Liao argued that, under her leadership, China was in fact the most profitable operation out of all the publishing company’s markets.

Condé Nast declined to comment, but a source familiar with the matter told WWD that even though Liao won the arbitration, the commission declined to give her any remedy whatsoever, rejected her request for reinstatement, rejected her request for compensation and rejected her request for continued performance of the employment contract.

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