Business partnerships can be tricky. When running a business, it is important to remember that there is a difference between the profits that go to pay the owners’ salaries and the money that gets invested back into the company. If one owner takes money from the company’s funds to pay for his personal expenses, he is doing a disservice to the business as well as to his business partner. Illinois law allows for the harmed owner to bring the matter to court and allege violations of Illinois corporate and partnership law and under the right circumstances seek attorneys, interest and punitive damages.
Famed local car dealer, Al Piemonte is known for promoting his dealerships in long-running television advertisements is the subject of claims of mismanagement by one of the alleged owners of his Melrose Park dealership. Piemonte owns three car dealerships in the Chicago area. Todd O’Reilly, who alleges he is a co-owner of Piemonte’s Ford dealership in Melrose Park, has recently filed a lawsuit in Cook County court against his business partner, accusing him and his third wife, Rosanna, of grossly mismanaging the company. According to the lawsuit, the successful car dealership is currently “sitting on more than $6 million in cash”. Piemonte has allegedly been using that money to fund personal expenses for himself and his family, including his adult daughter’s cell phone bill and a Mercedes for his second wife. Piemonte denies all of the claims in the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges that the company’s money has been used to pay for Piemonte’s personal credit card bills and to provide health insurance for relatives of Piemonte who have never worked for the company. Piemonte also allegedly used company money to pay for repairs on a car belonging to a family member who lives out of state and has no affiliation with the business. Additionally, Piemonte allegedly used company money to pay for pest-control treatments in his home and his sister-in-law’s home.
The complaint alleges that O’Reilly “has observed Piemonte use (the business’) money to pay for various personal expenses including clothes, massages, country club memberships, and the costs associated with remodeling his condo”. These claims must be litigated and proven.
O’Reilly’s original partnership with Piemonte allegedly allows him to purchase Piemonte’s majority share in the company for book value upon his death. After a series of recent hospitalizations and medical procedures, the 82-year-old Piemonte allegedly began to rethink the arrangement. At Rosanna’s urging, Piemonte allegedly approached O’Reilly to discuss modifying the terms of the business partnership. When O’Reilly allegedly refused, the complaint alleges that the Piemontes began allegedly excluding him from meetings and barring him from the sales floor and the service department. The lawsuit claims that the Piemontes want Rosanna’s son to take over the business instead of selling Piemonte’s shares to O’Reilly. O’Reilly has stated that he has no intention of parting with his shares in the company and that he has filed the lawsuit in order to protect his financial interests in the company.
The lawsuit alleges that the dealership “is being grossly mismanaged by Piemonte and Rosanna” and that “Piemonte has systematically controlled and used the corporation for the benefit of him and his family members … In doing so, Piemonte has been using (the dealership) as his personal piggy bank.” Piemonte denies these claims.
The lawsuit is seeking to have Piemonte repay all of the money he allegedly took from the company to pay for personal expenses; claims which he has denied. The lawsuit also asks for the court to appoint a custodian or receiver to oversee the business and on an emergency basis but Chancery Judge Neil Cohen denied the request for an appointment immediately leaving that issue perhaps open to further litigation.
Super Lawyers named Illinois business trial attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin has handled a number of substantial disputes like the Al Piemonte claims for large closely held family and other businesses.
Lubin has received a 10 rating which is the highest rating available on AVVO the lawyer listing and rating service.
Lubin Austermuehle’s Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of a century of experience in litigating complex shareholder disputes for closely held family and other closely held businesses. We handle emergency business lawsuits involving injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes, such as shareholder freeze-outs, and breach of fiduciary duty involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact one of our business attorneys by calling our toll free number at 630-333-0333 or online here.