Sunday, January 08, 2006

Truth stranger than fiction

If movie producers were looking for an incredible story propelled by characters who’ve not always stayed on this side of the law, they’d need look no further than Fog Cutter Capital Group, owner of the Fat Burger quickservice chain.

The company, despite its relative small size, generated plenty of ink last year when it revealed that it paid CEO Andrew Wiederhorn $6.6 million in compensation for 2004. Included, according to securities filings, were a seven-figure bonus and a $2 million payment termed a relocation fee. Wiederhorn was indeed out of the home office for 18 months, including five that year—serving a prison sentence. The federal government had convicted him of violating pension laws while working for a prior employer, an investment company that dealt with a figure of some renown in Russia’s “Sopranos”-like economy. Wiederhorn and Fog Cutter maintained that his transgressions were technical, not criminal in their intent—sort of like making an error on a tax return, but being held accountable because you’ve signed it.

Whatever the rights and wrongs might have been, the outlay to Wiederhorn left Fog Cutter $3.9 million in the red.

Nevertheless, Wiederhorn, who surrendered his CEO duties while serving out his year-and-a-half sentence, resumed the post last October after his societal debt had been paid. Fog Cutter unabashedly proclaimed his reinstatement and pledged to focus on development of Fat Burger, a chain with a near-cult following on the West Coast.

But the company was back in the news on Friday, in a development that sounds scripted by a Hollywood noir specialist. The concern disclosed that a lawsuit brought against Wiederhorn and his fellow directors by an outraged investor named Jeff Allan McCoon had been dismissed by a court, in essence because the plaintiff is a stinker. Court documents, as cited by Fog Cutter, dismissed McCoon’s charges because his "criminal record, probationary status, pending arraignment on new criminal charges, financial difficulties, and contempt of court disqualify him as a credible and trustworthy person."

Yet McCoon, who’s been party to a number of court cases in recent years, had the scruples to object to Wiederhorn’s $2 million relocation payment—which happened to be how much he was fined as part of his criminal penalties.

“This,” Wiederhorn said in a statement, “is a gratifying decision.”

To borrow from the great Dave Barry, folks, we couldn’t make this stuff up.

1 comment:

  1. Why do I work 15 hours day co0oking and cleaning and serving my Guests?
    Assholes like you should rot in jail!