Last-minute legal wrangling delays Billy Bob’s court hearing

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The legal battle over control of Billy Bob’s Texas remained unresolved June 27 after attorneys for the two sides squared off in court but then agreed to postpone a scheduled hearing to give both sides time to respond to new developments in the case.

State District Judge Mike Wallach ruled that a temporary restraining order that keeps Concho Minick in place as president of Billy Bob’s will remain in force until a hearing July 21.

At the heart of the contentious case is the management and direction of the venue billed as the world’s largest honky-tonk. Billy Bob’s is an emblematic fixture in the Fort Worth Stockyards, where it has hosted most of country music’s top performers since opening on April 1, 1981.

The dispute among Billy Bob’s 12 owners has resulted in a deadlock that has 10 owners aligned against Minick, a 3 percent minority owner, and his sole ally, a company owned by former Fort Worth City Councilman Steve Murrin and members of his family.

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The majority ownership group, including Minick’s father, Billy, wants to fire Minick. Billy Minick ran Billy Bob’s before he was forced out by his son, whom he brought into the business, the law suit claims.

Concho Minick and his allies claim Billy Bob’s ownership agreement requires unanimous consent by all owners to fire him. He has accused the majority owners of meddling and engaging in underhanded tactics as part of a vendetta sparked by Stockyards redevelopment plans led by Brad Hickman, who along with members of his family owns the largest share of Billy Bob’s, about 40 percent.

The $175 million redevelopment plan at issue is being spearheaded by Hickman in partnership with California developer Majestic Realty. The mixed-use project calls for creation of retail, restaurants, hotels and residential development across 1 million square feet of historic Stockyards property. Historic preservationists and some Stockyards property owners have objected to the plan.

A flurry of court documents filed Monday roiled the case after Concho Minick and the Murrin family made an 11th hour change of attorneys ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled hearing. Their previous attorney, Stephen Pezanosky of Haynes and Boone, said he stepped aside because of a potential conflict of interest involving a former attorney with his firm.

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Attorney Marshall Searcy of Kelly, Hart & Hallman, who represents the majority owners, said the Monday filing of a 100-plus-page document by attorneys for the other side’s new counsel, Sayles Werbner, triggered the need for a delay.

“I have not had a chance to fully read it,” Searcy said, saying it would have been unfair to his clients for the hearing to proceed as scheduled..

“We’re disappointed,” said attorney Mark Sawyer, representing the minority owners. “We were prepared to move forward today. This is a dilatory tactic.”

In a June 26 filing, Searcy questioned whether the court should have jurisdiction in the case because it is a matter of internal ownership rights. He noted that recent court rulings have taken a hands-off approach in private ownership matters.

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“This is not that rare case where a mean-spirited majority has entrenched itself into corrupt, salary-stuffed management positions, while freezing out a penniless minority by non-payment of dividends, blocked sales or hidden records,” Searcy’s filing said. “It is the total opposite! It involves an entrenched, highly-paid minority which demands its way or imperiously threatens to liquidate the majority’s legacy enterprise.”

Both sides have asked for a receiver to be appointed. Concho Minick seeks a receiver to preserve the status quo and possibly dissolve the business if the deadlock isn’t broken. The majority owners want a receiver to rewrite the ownership agreement to result in a majority rule arrangement.

Wallach set a July 7 hearing on the question of court jurisdiction in the case. A ruling could determine how the case moves forward.

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