Lawyer Says Clients Want to Sell Rocco's
Jul 26, 8:23 PM (ET)
By SAMUEL MAULL
NEW YORK (AP) - A lawyer for the financial backers of television chef Rocco DiSpirito said they want to sell the restaurant that was developed for his network television show and recoup the money they invested.
Laurence Kaiser, lawyer for China Grill Management, revealed his clients' wish to sell Rocco's 22nd Street, site of NBC's reality show "The Restaurant," on Monday at a court hearing to determine whether DiSpirito can be permanently barred from the eatery.
DiSpirito says he owns 50 percent of the restaurant, but his China Grill investors disagree. He asked that a court order that bars him from Rocco's be lifted and a court-appointed receiver take over the restaurant.
If Judicial Hearing Officer Ira Gammerman decides that DiSpirito is an owner of Rocco's, then the chef probably cannot be kept out. Gammerman in June signed the order that barred DiSpirito from entering Rocco's until the court dispute is resolved.
The investors, led by Jeffrey Chodorow, have sued DiSpirito over alleged mismanagement and financial losses at Rocco's. Kaiser said the lost money is the main reason Chodorow wants to sell.
DiSpirito's lawyer, Steven Hayes, argued against selling the restaurant, saying it had made a "substantial profit" for two of the past three months. In May, he said, the restaurant cleared $100,000.
"The restaurant, with Rocco's involvement, can be turned around and made profitable," Hayes said.
Chodorow took the witness stand and, questioned by Kaiser, contradicted other witnesses who said DiSpirito understood that he would be a 50 percent owner of Rocco's.
"Did you ever agree that Rocco would have a 50 percent ownership in the entity that owned Rocco's 22nd Street?" Kaiser asked him.
"No," replied Chodorow, who said his investor group put $4.7 million into Rocco's.
Hayes noted that the restaurant's liquor license application and other business documents name DiSpirito as half owner of the restaurant.
In an apparent swipe at Chodorow's credibility, Hayes asked him whether he was a convicted felon who had spent time in prison for lying on an application.
Chodorow admitted that he spent four months in jail in 1996 for conspiracy to interfere with the U.S. Department of Transportation, specifically that he submitted a false affidavit involving Braniff Airlines. He did not explain further.
"So you lied under oath?" Hayes asked.
"Yes," Chodorow answered.
Lon Rosen, a Los Angeles Dodgers executive who was DiSpirito's personal manager when Rocco's opened, said that despite DiSpirito's dedication to the venture Chodorow treated him "horribly" and "inhumanely."
Rosen also accused Chodorow of being beastly to the chef's 79-year-old mother, making her weep by saying nasty things to her about her son while she worked 14 hours a day making meatballs and doing other chores at the restaurant.
Outside court, Chodorow denied the accusation and said he found it "offensive."
Kaiser told Gammerman that even if Chodorow conceded DiSpirito was a 50 percent owner, "the real question is, 'What difference does it make?' It is clear that his 50 percent ownership has no value."
Kaiser explained that all parties agreed at the outset that the first money to come out of the venture would go to pay the investors. "His 50 percent is worth nothing until that happens," the lawyer said, "and worth nothing if that never happens."
"If Spirit Media (DiSpirito's company) has no economic interest (in the restaurant), should Spirit Media be allowed to require the 100 percent economic partner to do anything?" Kaiser asked Gammerman.
The hearing was to continue Tuesday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court.
Last edited by WickedGood; 07-26-2004 at 10:34 PM.
Reason: Adding link to story.
WoooWee thats getting ugly. Everything about the restraunt screams rocco. I would say he is a 50 percent owner, although I dont use the details, but everything about the restraunt has Roccos name associated with it.
The race is back!
Everything may have his name, but he didn't put up a single penny to open the restaurant. That was all CGM, and they can reasonably expect to get paid back first.
Always Loved My Furry One
Judge bars DiSpirito from Rocco's
Tuesday, July 27, 2004 Posted: 10:06 PM EDT (0206 GMT)
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A New York judge Tuesday barred TV chef Rocco DiSpirito from the site of his reality TV show "The Restaurant," and told his financial backer he could walk away because the place was operating at a loss.
"I don't think you are obligated to run a restaurant that's losing money," Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman told DiSpirito's partner, Jeffrey Chodorow.
At the end of a two-day hearing, the judge also issued the preliminary injunction barring DiSpirito from entering Rocco's on 22nd Street, where the show was filmed before being taken off the NBC broadcast network and moved to cable TV.
The judge ordered both sides to return to court on August 31 for the start of a trial to determine, among other issues, if a partnership ever existed between the two men, and if so, did DiSpirito breach their agreement.
In seeking a restraining order against DiSpirito, Chodorow had asked the judge for permission to sell the restaurant and end their stormy relationship.
Chodorow's lawyer, Laurence Kaiser, indicated to the judge that his client may sell the restaurant or re-open it under a different concept by the end of August.
"We may even have guest chefs," Kaiser said outside the courtroom when pressed for details about a new restaurant.
The legal food fight between DiSpirito and financier Chodorow turned ugly earlier this year when both men filed lawsuits accusing each other of running the restaurant into the ground.
In filing his $6 million countersuit against Chodorow, DiSpirito charged his partner with cooking the books.
Chodorow, who owns seven restaurants in the New York City area and over 20 nationwide, said he invested $4 million in the venture and lost another $700,000 along the way.
The 37-year-old celebrity DiSpirito said during his testimony Tuesday that he was to have been paid $175,000 as the executive chef. He also said he owns 50 percent of the restaurant.
NBC is the television network owned by General Electric Co.
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