Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam Enterprises LLC who recently swooped in to save Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery & Cafe in Evanston, Ill., from closing, thought he’d do a repeat performance.
But a deal with apparently cash-strapped “In the Raw” vegan restaurant in Highland Park has turned sour, and he has filed suit against its owners, Beth and Mark Taussig, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.
In the case of Rose’s, the cafe’s owner could not raise enough money through an Indiegogo campaign to stay open. Lemonis wrote a check for $200,000 and set up a $150,000 working capital fund for the bakery to keep it open and retain the employees, included Rose O’Carroll, now a partner in the business.
With “In the Raw,” Lemonis says, the Taussigs approached him in mid-December (Lemonis was a regular customer) to explain that they were behind on bills and faced closing their doors. “I met with them on a Sunday evening,” Lemonis said, “and I said, ‘Look, I’m willing to deal with you guys. Let’s come to an agreement.’ ”
The agreement, according to his lawsuit, was that Lemonis immediately would pay bills to keep the business operating and employees on the payroll.
“I put in over $100,000 of my own money, solely to duplicate what I did at Rose’s, to ultimately own the business but to keep the doors open.” That money went toward rent, vendors, Highland Park sales taxes and federal payroll taxes, among other bills.
In return, Lemonis was to receive 100% of the restaurant’s outstanding stock, an agreement he says the Taussigs discussed verbally and in e-mails. Because it was near the holidays, Lemonis says, it was not feasible to gather lawyers and immediately have legal documents executed to spell out the agreement.
For the next few weeks, Lemonis advised the Taussigs on operational matters at the restaurant, the suit alleges, and Mark Taussig added Lemonis as “an authorized signatory on the restaurant’s account in order to enable (him) to wire money directly into the restaurant’s account.”
Then on Jan. 9, Lemonis says he was removed as a signatory to the bank account and warned not to enter the business. In an e-mail from Beth Taussig attached to the lawsuit, she threatened Lemonis with arrest should he enter the restaurant.
What happened? Beth Taussig did not respond to a request for comment. “They are in a tough spot, and maybe on Jan. 9 they had a lapse in judgment or had a slight case of amnesia,” Lemonis says.
In his suit, Lemonis is asking that the Taussigs “comply fully with the agreement” and “cease interfering with (his) exercise of his full ownership and operation interest” in the restaurant and “immediately cooperate in the completion of all paperwork necessary to accomplish transfer” of the restaurants’ assets.
Regardless of how the “In the Raw suit turns out,” Lemonis is moving on. He says he’s hired six employees that “In the Raw” laid off and plans to employ them at a second Rose’s location, slated to open in a couple of weeks in Highland Park a few doors away from In the Raw.
He is also embarking on a new show with CNBC called “The Big Fix,” where Lemonis will put up $2 million of his own money to help turn failing businesses around.