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 Post subject: Boston finance exec accused of scheming with Kimball....
PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:20 pm 
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A lawsuit stemming from Christopher Kimball’s departure from the television show “America’s Test Kitchen” is now targeting a Boston private equity executive.

Housatonic Partners managing director William Thorndike secretly helped the bow-tied chef start his new venture, according to emails and other documents cited in ATK's amended complaint against Kimball and Thorndike — even though Thorndike’s firm was a key investor in America’s Test Kitchen Inc., now Kimball’s primary competition.

Earlier this month, ATK added Thorndike as a defendant in its earlier-filed lawsuit against Kimball, his businesses and some of his business partners.

ATK first sued Kimball in November 2016, about a year after he and ATK parted ways with the company and went on to start new programming, “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street,” based out of an office in downtown Boston. Kimball rose to fame as host of “America’s Test Kitchen,” a cooking show that airs on public-television stations across the United States. ATK's lawsuit claims that Kimball’s Milk Street concept rips off “Test Kitchen,” and that Kimball poached ATK's employees and commercial relationships.

The initial version of ATK’s lawsuit did not include the allegations against Thorndike. Those claims were included in the amended complaint, filed in Suffolk County Superior Court on Sept. 12, and are based on emails and other documents that ATK had obtained since it first filed suit.

In the amended lawsuit, Thorndike is accused of misusing ATK’s trade secrets for his own advantage and helping Kimball breach his legal duties to the company, even though he managed the Housatonic fund that had invested in ATK.

Thorndike, in an email to the Business Journal, stated that he intends to “vigorously” fight the claims in court.

A rupture decades in the making
Thorndike is one of the founders of Housatonic, which is based in Boston’s Prudential Tower and has more than $1 billion in assets under management. Another Housatonic founder, Eliot Wadsworth II, is an ATK board member, and for two decades Thorndike served as both a close adviser to the board and the manager of a Housatonic fund with an interest in ATK, according to the amended complaint.

Despite those ongoing ties to ATK, Thorndike encouraged Kimball to leave ATK as early as the summer of 2015 and invested money in “Milk Street,” according to documents cited in the amended court filing. During that summer, Kimball told Thorndike he was on the verge of leaving ATK and was talking with ATK employees about starting a new firm, but Thorndike did not tell ATK about those discussions, the suit alleges. According to one email quoted in the amended complaint, Thorndike even advised Kimball to hire intellectual property lawyers to prepare for potential legal action from ATK.

In a September 2015 email, Kimball acknowledged to Thorndike that “we will all make a lot of money in the process” and thanked him for helping with the launch, according to the complaint.

By October 2015, Kimball had created a business plan that listed Thorndike as the new venture’s lead investor, while continuing to have close ties with ATK, the lawsuit said. The plan, which Thorndike helped develop, “explicitly linked the success of the new business to its ability to capture ATK’s existing customers,” ATK alleges in the complaint.

Thorndike used his knowledge of ATK’s finances, including its internal rate of return, to woo investors to “Milk Street” and helped Kimball to do the same, the lawsuit said.

‘Undermined, marginalized’
Thorndike disputes ATK's claims. “I deny in the strongest possible terms that I did anything that was illegal in helping Chris Kimball start a new business, particularly after the board of America's Test Kitchen undermined, marginalized and eventually terminated him,” he said in an email to the Business Journal. “Those decisions, which I opposed at the time, were extraordinarily self-defeating because Mr. Kimball was the face and voice and principal driving talent of the company.”

An attorney for Kimball declined comment on the amended complaint. In counterclaims filed against ATK in December 2016, Kimball alleged it was ATK that directed him to start his own business. The company wanted someone else to run the company, but planned to subcontract with Kimball’s new venture and keep Kimball as the public face of the brand, according to the counterclaims. As the fall of 2015 progressed, however, the relationship soured and Kimbell was fired, the counterclaims said.

Kimball is suing ATK for defamation and breach of his partnership agreement, among other allegations.

Kimball has faced legal claims beyond the ATK lawsuit. The Boston restaurant Milk Street Cafe sued Kimball over his use of the term “Milk Street Kitchen,” but a federal judge sided with Kimball in August. Kimball’s ex-wife has also sued him, claiming he hasn’t made required spousal-support payments.


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 Post subject: Re: Boston finance exec accused of scheming with Kimball....
PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:40 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:03 am
Posts: 5092
Location: Portland, OR
Thanks for keeping us updated on this soap opera.

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