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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Donnie Nelson testifies, says Billy Bob’s dispute was rooted in Stockyards development

As the star witness in the Billy Bob’s Texas hearing on Monday, Dallas Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson said outside the courtroom that the feud among the embittered owners has little do with operations at the world’s largest honky-tonk.

“This is about real estate development in the Stockyards,” Nelson told reporters. “It’s a much bigger situation than what’s going on at Billy Bob’s,” he said.

Nelson, a minor owner in the iconic Stockyards nightclub, testified that he bought about a 10 percent share of Billy Bob’s because he would have “veto power” on major decisions, something he does not have as an investor in Gilley’s of Dallas.

Nelson testified that he purchased part of the ownership share of Don Jury, an original member of the group that resurrected the then-failing enterprise in 1988, because of his love of country music and the club’s role in launching the careers of up and coming musical artists.

Nelson, who said he testified in court for the first time ever on Monday, said he supports development in the Stockyards as long as it is in keeping with the Western history and character of the area.

“I’m embarrassed to have to be here today,” he told reporters. “I can’t believe we can’t find some middle ground on how the Stockyards should be developed.”

Regardless of what happens in the owners’ battle, Nelson said he believes “Billy Bob’s will be just fine.”

Testimony on the second day of the hearing continued to reveal the behind-the-scenes tug-of-war among the owners, who have opposing views on whether Concho Minick should remain as Billy Bob’s president.

An attempt in the spring to oust Minick by a majority of owners led to the lawsuit brought by Concho Minick and his allies, including Nelson and a company owned by former Fort Worth City Councilman Steve Murrin and his family. This group of minority owners opposed the termination and alleged they were being denied their rights to a say in the matter.

The majority group of owners, led by Stockyards co-developer Brad Hickman and his family, claim they are unfairly locked into a deadlock situation with their opponents because of a company operating agreement that shuns majority rule in favor of a situation that requires unanimous agreement on major decisions. The language of the agreement also requires unanimous and affirmative agreement even to file a lawsuit.

Concho Minick and his allies have asked for the appointment of a receiver to resolve the dispute and possibly sell the club to liquidate assets, although Concho testified on Monday that he does not want a forced sale of Billy Bob’s.

Testimony and court documents claimed that the bad blood among the embittered owners has led to meddling and underhanded tactics, including changing locks to keep Concho Minick out of the club and installing spyware on computers.

The dispute has pitted long-time friends against each other as well as father against son. Concho Minick’s father, Billy Minick, is aligned with majority owners and against his son, Concho.

Billy Minick, the former Billy Bob’s CEO who helped bring Concho Minick onboard at the club, testified Monday that he felt “disappointed for the owners” in his son’s attitude and behavior.

“He was very disrespectful many times,” Billy Minick testified on Monday.

Under questioning by his attorney, Mark Torian, Concho Minick testified that he tried to raise the level of professionalism at Billy Bob’s, introducing new business functions such as human resources, information technology and legal and insurance protections. The club has been especially profitable the last couple of years, according to testimony.

“I felt like we were a 30-year-old startup,” Concho Minick testified. “There was not much there in terms of procedures and documented work flow.”

With a degree in finance from Texas Christian University and an MBA from Yale University, Concho Minick also testified to frequent job changes, partially due to positions in the oil and gas industry – and a bad fit at Cash America – before going to work for Billy Bob’s.

Reflecting back over the past six-and-a-half years, Concho Minick said he wished he had a better relationship with his father.

“If I had put more effort into communication and deeper explanations the relationship might have been different,” he said. “I still love my father and we have had hard times in the past and we will get past it.”

In court documents, majority owners charged Concho Minick with fiscal mismanagement and extravagant spending.

Concho Minick and ally Philip Minick testified that the dispute is rooted in Concho Minick’s decision to speak out against Brad Hickman’s redevelopment plan for the Stockyards at a City Council meeting in 2014.

Hickman and his family have the largest ownership share of Billy Bob’s at 40 percent.

Hickman, in partnership with California developer Majestic Realty, are planning a $175 million development project that would bring more shops, restaurants and residences to the Stockyards.

“I told the City Council that I am pro-development but I’m for responsible development,” Concho Minick testified.

Concho Minick testified that he spoke on his own behalf and not as a representative of Billy Bob’s and then received a letter from Hickman chastising him for speaking out and demanding that he write apology letters to the mayor and every City Council member for his public stand. Minick testified that Hickman tried to have him re-assigned and demoted and outlined a series of grievances regarding his work performance.

Murrin testified last week that Hickman “wanted to fire Concho because he stood up to him at City Hall,” over the development plan.

Hickman is expected to testify Tuesday as the hearing continues in State District Judge Mike Wallach’s courtroom.

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