NEW YORK — The ongoing legal battle between Heather Thomson Schindler and Eric Rothfeld, the manager of Yummie by Heather Thomson, doesn’t appear to be settling down any time soon. As of now there aren’t any upcoming court dates, and despite the presiding judge’s recommendation to mediate, that too seems unlikely.
In a three-page letter e-mailed to WWD Wednesday, Rothfeld said, “While I did not commence this wasteful litigation, I am quite certain that the company and I will continue to prevail as we have for the last five months.”
Both Rothfeld’s attorney Donald Zakarin of Pryor Cashman and Thomson Schindler’s attorney John Reichman of Wachtel Missry declined to comment Thursday regarding plans or meetings for mediation.
Thomson Schindler, a former star on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New York City” and her husband Jonathan Schindler started the company that is now known as Yummie with Michelle Mooring Daray. The brand was initially financed through a $1 million loan from Rothfeld’s REI Capital. To date, its three founders have unsuccessfully tried to oust Rothfeld as Yummie’s manager; he is also chairman and chief executive officer of REI. Their aim has been to replace him with Wendy Herman, who has acted as president.
Their several attempts to replace him have been struck down by New York State Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten, although in the most recent court appearance on Feb. 19, the trio was advised to re-plead that. Bransten’s main viewpoint, however, is that the two sides should attempt to settle their legal dispute perhaps through a third-party mediator. Their legal dispute started in September.
Contingent with their original agreement, upon repayment of the $1 million loan to REI Capital, the founders had the option of replacing Rothfeld as manager pending REI’s approval “not to be unreasonably withheld.” The Schindlers and Daray owns 51 percent of the company and Rothfeld owns 49 percent. The court has repeatedly struck down numerous allegations including his being unqualified to serve as manager.
In their counterclaims against Schindler and Daray, Rothfeld’s legal team has alleged breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duties and intentional breach of the company’s operating agreement. Schindler’s attorneys are said to be planning to serve a motion to dismiss Rothfeld’s counterclaims on March 22.
Bransten allowed in the Feb. 19 hearing that Schindler’s lawyers make another motion to provide specific information about Herman’s qualifications and “what facts they rely on to show that she is the proper person to take over the company and allow an opposition to that, showing that this is not sufficient for whatever reasons they have, and more importantly, as well as legal support for their claim.”
In his letter to WWD, Rothfeld specified that the court denied Schindler’s demand for payment (more than $200,000 since October 2014, according to her legal team’s complaint). Considered a contractor for the company, despite being an owner, Bernstein dismissed the motion for payment, prefacing that with “Ms. Schindler may have a proper claim for breach of contract based on the nonpayment of her fees under the 2008 Agreement, the Complaint fails to state a cause of action for a Labor Law Violation.”
As an aside, during the Feb. 19 court date, Bransten noted how Schindler’s employment agreement, which provided $16,666.66 per month for design, sales and other services “sort of brings out sort of like an incredibleness of this entire case…It makes you feel like people are playing games, but that’s just an aside. That’s just to the amount, not as to the issue.”
Rothfeld’s team continues to abide by the court order that prohibits retaliatory action against Yummie’s senior management, which had submitted affidavits supporting Herman as manager. In his letter to WWD, Rothfeld noted that he had “no intention” of terminating any company employees anyway even without the temporary restraining order.
Noting the court’s Feb. 5 denial of Schindler’s demand for payment from the company, Rothfeld pointed out “despite repeated requests from the company, she remained in breach of contractual obligations to the company. She has ignored her agreement to account for and pay the company as required 50 percent of her substantial ‘Real Housewives [of New York City]’ and other income she generated.” He also noted that Daray has been paid all of her annual consulting fees of $125,000 and has never suggested otherwise.