Truth is stranger than fiction and it plays out in court rooms all across the country, often involving small businesses and the people who own them. One such story involves Vicki’s Vodka, a now defunct business formerly owned by reality TV star and insurance agency owner Vicki Gunvalson and professional poker play Robert Williamson, III. Like any good reality TV show, this business apparently featured owners involved in double dealing, back stabbing and lying.
Gunvalson, of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County fame, and her ex-boyfriend Brooks Ayers were sued in 2013 by Robert Williamson, III, in a Nevada court for $250,000 because they allegedly conspired to commit fraud in their Vicki’s Vodka venture. The lawsuit was filed, dismissed after an alleged settlement and then re-filed because that settlement was allegedly breached, according to Radar Online.
Williamson, a poker player by trade, alleges Gunvalson breached a contract, was involved in fraud, failed to live up to good faith dealings, engaged in misrepresentation and “conspired to unjustly enrich herself.” Ayers was named as a co-defendant in the action, but was recently dismissed from the case, along with claims that he defamed, extorted and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Williamson.
Williamson’s lawsuit alleges,
- Gunvalson and Williamson created Vicki’s Vodka and Gunvalson gave Ayers 16.67% ownership of the business without notifying Williamson.
- Ayers sold his interest to Williamson for $50,000.
- Gunvalson later “demanded” the ownership interest purchased by Williamson from Ayers be given back to her.
- Ayers and Gunvalson used the purchase to extort money from Williamson “without the intent to honor the intent of the transaction.”
- Ayers and Gunvalson intended to “lure Robert Williamson III into the purchase of Brooks’ interest” without the intent to comply with the contract and make the company successful.
As part of her defense, Gunvalson has claimed she was pressured into signing a settlement with Williamson, also according to Radar Online. She alleges Williamson threatened her in before the start of a live broadcast of “Watch What Happens Live” in July 2013, where they were both guests. Williamson allegedly placed the contract in front of her and threatened if she didn’t sign he would tell the press she had defrauded him in the vodka venture.
Gunvalson claims she feared Williamson would create a scene on the broadcast and slander her, possibly endangering a renewed contract with Bravo. She signed the agreement and gave Williamson two checks totaling $50,000, but he later filed the lawsuit weeks later. It’s still pending.
Like so many Hollywood stories of things going horribly wrong, this one has many lessons for those of us not famous enough to regularly appear on cable TV.
- Want to start a business with someone? Call my office so we can discuss the matter and I can craft an agreement amongst the parties that will protect your interests and clearly spell out the rights and responsibilities of the partners.
- If you’re involved in a lawsuit never sign a proposed settlement agreement without it being reviewed by an attorney who can answer your questions and apprise you how it impacts your legal rights and responsibilities. You need to fully understand what’s being proposed before you can fully consent to the agreement.
If you’re involved in a business ownership arrangement that may be going as sour as Vicki’s Vodka, contact my office so we can talk about what’s happening, your legal rights and how they can be protected.