Testimony in the opening day of the Billy Bob’s Texas hearing shed more light on the bitter feud among the embattled owners of the iconic Stockyards nightclub.
State District Judge Mike Wallach had postponed a decision on whether the lawsuit should be tossed out and let the full hearing proceed on schedule. Attorneys representing owners on both sides said multiple witnesses are scheduled to testify during the hearing, which continues on Monday in the 348th District Court.
Two weeks ago, Wallach heard arguments on a motion by attorneys for the majority of the 12 owners who want to quash the case on technical issues, including disparities between the company’s operating agreement and the certification of formation that were both signed in 2011.
The lawsuit was filed in May after the majority owners attempted to oust Billy Bob’s president, Concho Minick, a 3 percent owner. Minick and his allies, including a company owned by former Fort Worth Councilman Steve Murrin and his family, alleged they were being denied their rights to a say in the matter as minority owners.
At issue is the company’s operating agreement, disdained by both sides, because it sets up the situation that led to the deadlock over Concho Minick’s continued employment. The operating agreement requires unanimous agreement on all major decisions, including employment decisions, and “unanimous and affirmative” agreement to even bring 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.
Majority owners, including Concho Minick’s father Billy, want the operating agreement rewritten to break the deadlock and create a new company agreement that would prevent future ownership battles.
Court documents reveal 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.
On the witness stand Friday, Philip Murrin, an ally of Concho Minick’s, testified that spyware was also installed on the club’s computers.
Majority owners charge Concho Minick with mismanagement and extravagant spending. They also claim he should not have an indefinite hold on his $300,000 a year job due to a clause in “an unfortunate” company agreement, said their attorney, Marshall Searcy.
But attorneys for the minority owners point out that the club known as the world’s largest honky-tonk earned record profits under Concho Minick’s management.
In testimony on Friday, it was pointed out that and the dispute is directly tied to the Stockyards redevelopment plan led by Brad Hickman, who along with members of his family owns the biggest share of Billy Bob’s at 40 percent.
Hickman has also partners with California developer Majestic Realty on a $175 million development project in the Stockyards that could bring residences to the historic area that is considered the crown jewel of Fort Worth’s Western heritage.
Retaining the history and authenticity of the Stockyards has been a contentious issue for preservationists and especially the Murrin family.
Brad Hickman “wanted to fire Concho because he stood up to him at City Hall,” over the development plan, Philip Murrin testified as the first witness on Friday.
Under questioning by one of his attorneys, Mark Torian, Murrin testified that Concho Minick spoke out at a city meeting on his own behalf and not as an employee of Billy Bob’s.
“We are in favor of development of the Stockyards but said let’s just take our time,” Murrin testified.
Murrin identified himself as a long-time friend of Concho Minick’s but testified that “my duty is to my family.”
He also testified that Hickman had been obstructionist on several occasions.
Hickman “uses the unanimity clause to get what he wants for his other interests,” Murrin testified. “His deal to develop the Stockyards is his primary concern.”
Murrin further testified that Hickman blocked a proposal to building a Billy Bob’s Texas hotel adjacent to the club in 2012.
Outside the courtroom, Hickman defended himself and said he did not oppose a hotel but wanted it to fit with the plans for the overall Stockyards redevelopment. Besides, he said, such a project would be in conjunction with Stockyards 2000, owners of the Billy Bob’s Texas building and other property. That group includes some of the same owners as Billy Bob’s Texas as well as some others.
Under questioning by Searcy, Murrin testified about the management structure of the club, financial operations and other inner workings of the club.
Murrin also testified that the minority owners currently “are not seeking liquidation” of Billy Bob’s.
Dallas Mavericks President Donnie Nelson, who owns about 10 percent of Billy Bob’s, may testify when the hearing continues on Monday.
The judge has extended the temporary operating agreement that calls for Concho Minick to remain as head of Billy Bob’s until Monday, Aug. 7, indicating he will likely rule by then. Attorneys for both sides will file post-hearing briefs early the week of July 31.