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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Stockyards development tensions fueled Billy Bob’s management turmoil

Billy Bob’s Texas majority owner and co-developer of the Fort Worth Stockyards redevelopment project Brad Hickman testified on Tuesday that the acrimony among the Billy Bob’s Texas owners is tied to the Stockyards plan.

Hickman testified before State District Judge Mike Wallach on the third day of a hearing in 348th District Court in a dispute involving the management of Billy Bob’s and the rights of majority and minority owners to make decisions about the business.

Hickman, along with members of his family who own a 40 percent interest in the world’s largest honky-tonk, said on the witness stand that his anger with Billy Bob’s Texas President Concho Minick stems from the decision Minick made in 2014 to testify before the City Council about a grant and rezoning for the Stockyards redevelopment plan.

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

“In my view, the president of Billy Bob’s Texas is a public figure who spoke against the plan three times, misleading the public about a plan that 65 percent of the [Billy Bob’s] owners are in favor of,” Hickman testified.

Hickman said he was especially “infuriated” when Concho Minick expressed his views for television cameras in front of the neon Billy Bob’s Texas sign at the iconic venue that has showcased many of country and pop music’s most popular acts throughout its 36-year history.

“This falls under my assessment of very poor judgment,” Hickman said.

Concho Minick testified previously that he expressed his own feelings about the plan as a citizen and not as a representative of Billy Bob’s. He also testified that he 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.

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

The tense relations reached a boiling point this spring, Concho Minick testified, when Hickman tried to have him demoted and re-assigned.

Concho Minick was hired as president in 2011 at the urging of his now estranged father, then CEO Billy Minick, who would mentor him and then bow out. Billy Minick, now aligned with Hickman and other majority owners, was fired by his son in 2014, according to testimony.

As part of Concho Minick’s employment agreement, he would be given a 3 percent ownership share in Billy Bob’s over a three-year period, according to testimony.

Since he received his ownership shares in 2014, the relationship between Concho Minick and some of the owners has gotten worse, Hickman testified.

“He runs Billy Bob’s like he owns 100 percent,” Hickman testified, saying actions like “not replying to emails have gotten progressively worse and decisions made that we should have been consulted about.”

The attempt by the majority owners to oust Concho Minick prompted the lawsuit by him and his allies, including Dallas Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson and a company owned by former Fort Worth Councilman Steve Murrin and his family.

Minority owners Philip Murrin and Nelson also testified that the ownership dispute is tied to Concho Minick’s public comments about the Hickman Group/Majestic Realty development plans.

This group of minority owners opposes Concho Minick’s termination and alleges they are being denied their rights to a say in the matter despite a company operating agreement that requires unanimous agreement on major decisions such as hiring and firing management personnel.

The majority owners claim the operating agreement is also part of the dispute because it has placed them in a deadlock situation with their opponents by requiring unanimous agreement, rather than majority rule, on key company decisions.

Attorneys for Concho Minick and his supporters pointed to a variety of documents that indicated Hickman attempted to manipulate the company agreement for his own benefit during the past few years.

Hickman also testified that if Judge Wallach agrees that the company’s certificate of formation trumps the operating agreement and Concho Minick can be terminated by majority rule, there is a plan for his replacement. Hickman said Billy Minick, along with his wife, Pam Minick, and former General Manager Marty Travis, who was fired by Concho Minick, would return to run Billy Bob’s until another management team is brought in.

All owners who testified in court expressed strong feelings about Billy Bob’s as an anchor of the Stockyards and said they have no desire for it to be sold.

After founding owner Billy Bob Barnett lost Billy Bob’s to bankruptcy in 1988, investor Don Jury and Steve Murrin recruited Hickman’s father, Holt Hickman, to invest in Billy Bob’s so it could reopen several months later.

The new owners brought in Billy and Pam Minick as the management team.

“Billy Bob’s was my dad’s favorite and prized possession,” Hickman testified.

According to the temporary restraining order, Concho Minick will remain in his position until Aug. 7. Both sides are expected to file post-hearing briefs early next week.

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