LOS ANGELES — Paul Frank Sunich, a co-founder of Paul Frank Industries, has filed a lawsuit seeking the dissolution of the apparel and accessories company that bears his name and accusing his former partners of mismanagement.

Sunich alleged in a complaint filed Wednesday in California Superior Court that Paul Frank president Ryan Heuser and chief executive officer John Oswald fired him without cause, have unjustly enriched themselves, and tried to force the sale of Sunich’s one-third stake in the $40 million-a-year enterprise.

“The officers of PFI have caused PFI to pay themselves grossly excessive salaries, which have increased by 750 percent over two years [from $439,000 to more than $3.1 million], depriving the minority shareholders, including Sunich, of the value of their interest in PFI.”

Liquidation and dissolution of the 10-year-old Costa Mesa, Calif., company is “reasonably necessary for the protection of the rights or interests of the plaintiff,” the suit said.

Sunich is seeking a breakup and distribution of the assets, as well as $3 million in damages and restitution, and the appointment of a receiver to manage the company pending the outcome of the case.

The company issued a statement saying that the lawsuits are “completely meritless and untrue. We look forward to vigorously defending these claims … We have nothing to hide … We have no intention of selling our company, dissolving it or doing anything other than continuing to produce fun, innovative, high-quality products.”

A federal copyright lawsuit, which Sunich also filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks to prevent PFI from further use of the iconic Julius the monkey character that has made the label famous.

The legal action seeks damages, profits derived from the company’s continued use of the monkey.

Sunich could not be reached for comment.

This story first appeared in the March 20, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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