Former Johnson Controls exec suing after merger changed his job

Trent Nevill left company in May, now seeks $5 million

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Not long after Johnson Controls Inc. announced its merger with Tyco International, the company named Trent Nevill as president of its Asia Pacific business.

Trent Nevill

Nevill, now a Texas resident, was to be based in Shanghai and would lead the company’s business in the region, which then chief executive Alex Molinaroli said the company had made “a strategic commitment to.”

But in a new lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin, Nevill says that after the Tyco merger was complete the company de-emphasized the role of the Asia Pacific region and restructured its operations.

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According to the complaint, the restructuring changed Nevill’s position and diminished his duties, responsibilities, authority and reporting relationships. He claims the changes give him the ability to trigger a change-of-control provision in his employment agreement, allowing him to leave the company with “good cause” and receive certain benefits.

Those benefits include three-times Nevill’s base salary and annual bonus. Court documents indicate he is seeking $5 million.

Johnson Controls declined to comment on the lawsuit, noting it is both a personnel matter and ongoing litigation.

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Nevill left Johnson Controls on May 7 and alleges the company has “failed to acknowledge” his departure was for good cause and that he would be eligible for change-of-control benefits.

The complaint says Molinaroli and Simon Davis, JCI chief human resources officer, recruited Nevill, a longtime Johnson Controls employee, for the Asia Pacific president position.

The position was responsible for growing business in the region and was one of only a few in the company that reported directly to Molinaroli. Responsibilities included overseeing all three business units in the region, strategic planning, corporate development and functional leadership, among other things.

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“In sum, the APAC President was to be responsible for running and growing JCI’s APAC business, as a separate and independently functioning unit from JCI’s domestic Operations,” the complaint says.

Following the merger, the complaint says Nevill’s position was changed to vice president and president of building solutions for Asia Pacific.

“Mr. Nevill ultimately went from being tasked with having authority and responsibility for building JCI’s APAC business, to simply supervising and ensuring daily revenues for one regional business segment. The two positions are inherently contrary to one another,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit says Nevill brought his concerns about his changing position to George Oliver, who replaced Molinaroli as CEO after Sept. 1, 2017, but alleges Oliver “never substantively addressed or remedied Mr. Nevill’s concerns.”

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