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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

‘Wild, wild west’: Billy Bob’s courtroom drama continues

The courtroom drama over the future direction of Billy Bob’s Texas continued Friday as attorneys for the embattled owners wrangled over whether the case should be tossed out of court.

State District Judge Mike Wallach heard arguments from attorneys for the majority of the 12 owners and attorneys for the minority owners but did not rule on whether the case should proceed to a lengthier hearing on substantive issues in the case.

That hearing remains scheduled for July 21 and leaves in place an order that keeps Concho Minick as president of the world’s largest honky-tonk until then.

Concho Minick filed the lawsuit in May after the majority group of owners, including Minick’s father Billy, attempted to fire him from top management position that he took over from his father in 2011.

Friday’s hearing was the result of a move by Marshall Searcy, attorney for the majority owners, to boot the case from court on technical matters including disparities between the company’s operating agreement and certificate of formation. Both documents were signed in 2011.

But as even more evidence that the lawsuit should be dismissed, he pointed to language in the company agreement that requires “unanimous and affirmative” agreement among all owners to bring a suit.

Searcy defined the company agreement as “unfortunate, confusing” and “draconian.”

“There is no doubt that this is a dreadful clause in a dreadful paragraph,” Searcy told the judge. But if the agreement is binding “then the clause is enforceable.

“This is forcing me to talk out of both sides of my mouth,” Searcy said.

William Snyder, an attorney representing Concho Minick and his ally, a company owned by former Fort Worth City Councilman Steve Murrin and his family, pleaded for the judge to not toss the case and hear it on its merits. 

Snyder said the case was brought in the first place because the two sides were hopelessly deadlocked over the decision to fire Concho Minick, a 3 percent owner. The Murrin family owns about 22 percent of Billy Bob’s.

If the case is dismissed, the minority owners have no other recourse, Snyder said.

“Where would that leave us?” he said. “Back to where we are. It prevents us from bringing a lawsuit.

“We’d have the wild, wild west here with absolutely no recourse,” Snyder said. “It would be unlimited chaos. Let’s litigate.”

Should Wallach rule to dismiss the case, the July 21 hearing likely would be cancelled. The judge asked many questions of attorneys for both sides throughout the hearing.

“We believe that the court gets it and wants to do the right thing,” Mark Torian, an attorney also representing the minority owners. “The judge is diligent and thoughtful. We think we’ll be here July 21.”

The Dallas-based attorneys took over for Fort Worth attorney Stephen Pezanosky who stepped aside because of a potential conflict of interest involving a former attorney with his law firm, who had done legal work for Brad Hickman, who owns the largest share in Billy Bob’s along with his family. The Hickman family owns 40 percent.

Both sides had attempted mediation but that failed because the company agreement requires unanimous agreement on major decisions. Concho Minick and his allies have been able to block his termination.

Minority owners, who have accused the majority owners of meddling in day-to-day management and engaging in underhanded tactics such as locking them out of the iconic nightclub in the Fort Worth Stockyards, want Billy Bob’s placed in receivership and possibly sold if an agreement cannot be reached.

Majority owners oppose a sale and want to restructure the company agreement, which both sides agree is poorly written.

In court documents, majority owners state that Concho Minick tried to buy Billy Bob’s in 2009 and “has long desired to appropriate the ownership of Billy Bob’s (the legacy investment of its majority) and turn it into a multi-franchise, worldwide company.”

Although the case is based on a management dispute and future direction of the club, the bad blood among the owners traces back to the announcement of a $175 million redevelopment plan in the Stockyards 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.

After the hearing, Steve Murrin’s son, Philip, acknowledged that the Stockyards and Billy Bob’s are “inextricably linked.”

“But this case is about how to best manage Billy Bob’s and our rights as owners,” Murrin said.

Billy Bob’s continues to operate smoothly in the midst of the legal battle.

“We want to assure everyone that the legal dispute currently in the news will in no way interfere with the great Billy Bob’s experience or the future stability of this proud Texas institution,” Billy Bob’s marketing director Chris Spinks said in a recent statement.

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