Aspen optical shop owner files suit against partner
The former operator and minority owner of Art of Optiks, an Aspen optical shop, is suing his former majority partner in the business, who now apparently has sold the shop to another party, along with another Optiks store in Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall.
Randy Scott of Basalt, the minority partner, co-founder, director, and practicing optician at Art of Optiks until early December, seeks an undisclosed amount – expected to exceed a half-million dollars – from Farrell Kahn of Aspen, according to the lawsuit filed yesterday in Pitkin County District Court.
In the lawsuit, Scott claims his 11-year partner Kahn sold Scott’s sizable stake in both the Aspen and Denver Art of Optiks stores and “paid him nothing” in return.
Kahn’s attorney, Lenny Oates, declined to comment on specifics of the suit, though he said he had read it yesterday. “Appropriate answers will be filed,” he said, adding that “substantial counterclaims to the assertions” will be filed as well.
Kahn and Scott entered into business together in 1988, the suit said. Kahn was the sole, passive investor in the first store, Art of Optiks on Cooper Avenue in Aspen, while Scott ran the day-to-day operations. Kahn and Scott had 51 percent and 49 percent interest in the store, respectively, though an agreement stipulated that Scott would have first right of refusal should Kahn decide to sell.
The store’s sales quadrupled to $1.3 million by early 1999, when the two opened a second Art of Optiks in the Cherry Creek Mall, the suit said. According to an agreement, Kahn retained 75 percent interest in the new store with Scott controlling the remaining interest. The deal also granted Scott the right to purchase an additional 25 percent interest in the Denver store, and again, first right of refusal to buy Kahn’s interests, the suit said.
However, soon after the Cherry Creek store opened, both stores began experiencing financial difficulties, the suit said, and “Kahn began to defame Scott verbally and in writing, and falsely accused Scott of embezzlement and theft to various third parties.”
This fall, Scott attempted to buy Kahn’s interest in the stores, but Kahn failed to act in good faith in accordance with earlier agreements, the suit claims.
Kahn then held a shareholders meeting – which Scott objected to and declined to attend – whereupon Kahn purportedly removed Scott as director, terminated his employment and took Scott’s interests in the stores, the suit said, before selling the stores to a third party for an undisclosed sum.
Scott charges Kahn with breach of contract, good faith, fair dealing and fiduciary duty, as well as defamation, and seeks to “recover three times the amount of actual damages (including non-economic damages) sustained by him” plus attorney fees, according to the suit. Scott has requested a trial by a jury of six.
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