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Bow Truss CEO Blames Problems On Failed Deal In New Lawsuit

By Emma G. Gallegos in Food on Feb 2, 2017 10:00PM

Inside a Bow Truss coffee location (Photo by Fogel's Focus via the Chicagoist Flickr Pool)

Local businessman Marcus Lemonis' failed deal to take over Bow Truss has gotten even messier. The Chicago coffee shop chain's owner, Phil Tadros, filed suit against Lemonis and his company ML Foods, claiming that they had nefarious motivations in their overtures to buy the company. The suit also blames Lemonis for Bow Truss' payroll problems that meant employees weren't paid this month, prompting walk-offs and store closures.

The suit is asking for $26 million in damages. Lemonis calls the suit a "nuisance" that he vowed to fight it, according to Crain's.

In December, Lemonis signed a letter of intent that said he would control Bow Truss, and made statements in public implying he was the new CEO. The suit claims that he promised to send funds—including money that would be used to make payroll—but then backed out and asked for the price of the company to be lowered.

The suit says that Lemonis "devised a fraudulent scheme to attempt to purchase [Bow Truss] at a rock bottom bargain basement price and failing to accomplish that to destroy [Bow Truss]." This alleged fraudulent scheme, the suit claims, involved making social media posts and comments to the press that were "false, misleading and held [Bow Truss] in a false light," in order to "embarrass and harm the plaintiff."

The suit says Lemonis' true aim was to lower Bow Truss' price or put the company out of business altogether, which would clear the way for Lemonis' business plans in Chicago. This tweet is alleged evidence of the conspiracy:

Bow Truss is asking for $6 million in damages to the company's reputation, value and sales. Tadros is asking for another $20 million in punitive damages plus $162,500 and interest for the break-up fee agreed to in the letter of intent.

Lemonis vowed to fight the suit—and that he'd also like to see the $97,000 he loaned the company in the days after he signed a letter of intent. He told Crain's, "I will spend whatever I have to make sure he doesn't get a penny from me, and whatever I have to get my $100,000 back." He told the Chicago Tribune "desperate people do desperate things."

He also admonished Tadros for not paying his employees on Twitter this morning, in response to the suit:

Many of the employees have been paid since they walked off, but some told Crain's they're still owed back pay. Two stores have been reopened since then, according to the Tribune.

Lemonis is the CEO of Camping World, host of "The Profit" on CNBC and he said he'll be announcing the name of a Los Angeles-based coffee venture he'll be bringing to Chicago on his show.