Former NFL Player Jonathan Vilma Sues Franchisor For Breaching Restaurant Franchise Agreements And Failing To Disclose Criminal Activity
Former NFL linebacker Jonathan Vilma had a successful career with the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints. He was a 3-time Pro Bowl selection, won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and earned a Super Bowl championship ring.
The Miami native has kept busy since retirement mainly through investing in restaurant businesses like Brother Jimmy’s and a fast-casual gastro-pub restaurant called Pincho Factory. However, the latter franchise has caused Vilma some problems, and now Vilma finds himself in court against Pincho Factory Franchise, LLC.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida by franchises owned through companies set up by Vilma. One concern for Vilma is with the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) that he was provided in 2015.
Jonathan Vilma claims that the Pincho Factory franchisor failed to disclose alleged criminal conduct by a key individual in the organization.
“Notwithstanding the duty (and obvious importance) of full disclosure, Franchisor failed to disclose to Vilma that Yaddiel [Marin], one of the key individuals within the Franchisor organization, was (and still is) alleged to be bankrolling his fugitive father, Manuel Marin, who was charged with the murder of his wife’s secret lover, Camilo Salazar,” states Vilma’s Complaint.
Vilma says that he didn’t become aware of the activity until discovering an article in the Miami Herald on May 14, 2018, and claims that he wouldn’t have associated himself with Pincho Factory or entered into a total of 5 franchise agreements if he knew of the alleged criminal conduct.
A location in Brickell was opened in November 2016, which operated at a loss in its 1st year of business. Vilma entered into a lease to open up a 2nd location in North Miami, but has yet to open for business based on what Vilma claims to be “(in)actions of Franchisor.” He says that he found other locations that he wanted to open in Aventura and Coral Springs, which were “enthusiastically approved” by the Franchisor only to be rejected at a later date. It is this type of game-play that has Vilma very frustrated.
Vilma was looking to get out of his business relationship with Pincho Factory even before reading the aforesaid Miami Herald article. His Complaint states that in early 2018, he informed the Franchisor of his intentions to sell his 5 franchises/territories and dissassociate with Pincho Factory.
Jonathan Vilma says that he has been strong-armed by a franchisor after opening up 1 Pincho Factory location and having rights to open 4 more.
This presented another problem that became the subject of the pending litigation. Vilma says that the Franchisor indicated an intent to purchase the Brickell location but, instead of performing a quick due diligence investigation, the Franchisor tied Vilma up for roughly 7 months before stating that it couldn’t afford to purchase the location.
“This intentional seven-month delay was detrimental to Brickell Franchisee in obtaining a purchaser — especially because the Brickell Restaurant was operating at a loss,” reads the Complaint.
Next, the Franchisor sent Vilma 4 notices of default related to the other location agreements that gave Vilma exclusivity on opening storefronts beyond Brickell, claiming that he failed “to expeditiously lease, renovate, equip and open the restaurants for business.” Vilma says it is nonsense, since he made efforts to open up other locations, which were denied by the Franchisor.
Putting the adversarial nature of communications aside, the parties entered into a Letter of Intent for the Franchisor to purchase the Brickell location. But less than 2 months later, the Franchisor terminated it and sent renewed notices of default. That was followed by a Notice of Termination of Franchise Agreements, on July 12, for the 4 locations that had yet to open, and then a notice of default relating to the Brickell location on July 23 for things such as failing to keep its bread account current.
With no end in sight concerning the fighting and a lot of resources being burned in the process, Vilma decided to put the issues in the court’s control and filed a 6 Count Complaint that is 35 pages in length before taking into account the numerous exhibits. He wants compensatory damages, interest and attorney’s fees for claimed breaches of contract as well as a declaration from the court that involves the interpretation of contract and property rights as well as the parties’ rights, duties and obligations under the 5 franchise agreements.