NEW YORK — The Burches are back at it.
This story first appeared in the December 5, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As part of their ongoing legal battle, Tory Burch has accused her ex-husband Chris Burch of withholding documents pertinent to the case.
In doing so, the designer has peeled back another layer of her legal argument, namely that Chris Burch used his role as director of her namesake brand to source and develop “copycat” products and store furnishings for his nascent brand, C. Wonder, which he launched last year. She also speculated that he used her company’s inside financial data to attract investors for his other business ventures.
The legal battle began on Oct. 2 when Chris Burch sued his ex-wife in Delaware Chancery Court, claiming she has blocked him from selling his stake in Tory Burch LLC, the company that the duo started in 2003. The Burches each own a 28.3 percent stake in the brand. In early November, Tory Burch filed her own lawsuit, claiming Chris Burch copied her label when he created C. Wonder.
What has transpired since has amounted more or less to tabloid fodder rather than legal news with presiding judge Leo Strine pontificating on the religious backgrounds of the feuding parties and the definition of a WASP.
But the most recent filing by Tory Burch late Monday provided another kernel of insight into her argument. In essence, Tory Burch alleges that her ex-husband, who was paid $11 million as a consultant for the brand as a director, used the experience to do research for his own retail concept. Tory Burch claims that Chris Burch’s attorneys are intentionally delaying the release of “pertinent” travel documents that will shed light on his extensive business travels and motives.
This is part of Tory Burch’s larger narrative, which alleges that Chris Burch is omitting a host of critical files that are central to the case, including documents that back up Chris Burch’s argument that Tory Burch and board members thwarted the sale process of his shares in the company.
According to lawyers for Tory Burch, all relevant case documents were supposed to be produced by Nov. 30. Of the 10,000 files turned over by Chris Burch, 3,000 were “makeweight,” consisting of mass e-mails to all corporate employees or public news dispatches — nothing very substantive, claimed Tory Burch’s legal team, adding it had turned over more than 2,000 top-level e-mails between Chris Burch and Tory Burch executives.
Chris Burch has “failed to produce any documents concerning the business, financial or other relationships” between the plaintiffs and Tory Burch and board members, the designer’s counsel said.
In her motion, Tory Burch is asking the judge to order her ex-husband to comply with discovery requests on issues spanning from communications between Chris Burch and Jorg Mohaupt, the designee of Access Industries’ billionaire founder Len Blavatnik on the Tory Burch board, to Chris Burch’s travel calendar.
“Plaintiffs alleged that Chris Burch was totally open with the company, Tory and director John Hamlin about his plans for his C. Wonder store and that he showed them exactly what he was planning to do. Documents to back this? Not there,” Tory Burch’s lawyers said.
Tory Burch’s lawyers explained that their side is “entitled to know whether Chris Burch used confidential financial information from Tory Burch LLC to attract Access and potentially other investors into C. Wonder or one of Chris Burch’s other business ventures.”
Calls seeking comment from Chris Burch’s attorneys were not returned.