Attorneys pleaded with a state district judge Friday to keep hearing their arguments against the majority owners of Billy Bob’s Texas, saying it will be “the wild, wild west” at the world’s largest honky-tonk if he boots them out of court.
Attorneys for Concho Minick and the Murrin family, minority investors in the iconic Stockyards watering hole, were fighting a request made from the majority owners to dismiss the lawsuit. Minick, Billy Bob’s manager, and the Murrins, sued after the majority investors tried to fire Minick.
“We get the wild, wild west if we don’t have any recourse in any court,” said William Snyder, one of the attorneys representing Minick, told state District Judge Michael Wallach. “Where do we go? What do we do?”
But attorneys for the majority owners told Wallach that the court essentially lacks the jurisdiction to preside over an “intramural scrimmage” that doesn’t need to be in court.
We get the wild, wild west if we don’t have any recourse in any court.
William Snyder, an attorney for the minority owners
Marshall Searcy, the attorney representing the majority owners including the Hickman family, argued that while a poorly written operating agreement is complicating matters, other mechanisms within the corporate bylaws can handle the dispute and “let these people get on with their business.”
After asking the attorneys a series of pointed questions, Wallach took the case under advisement.
Minick filed his lawsuit in May after a majority of the owners tried to fire him over his plans for running the 127,000-square-foot bar and concert hall. Among those seeking to terminate him are his father, Billy Minick, and Brad Hickman, whose family is leading a $175 million redevelopment in the Stockyards.
The younger Minick said he is being punished for speaking out against Hickman’s development plans. Concho Minick says that the club has thrived since he grabbed the reins of Billy Bob’s in 2011.
Concho Minick’s legal team has asked the court, among other things, to allow him to run Billy Bob’s until a receiver can take over and try to break a deadlock that exists among the owners. If the receiver finds that impossible to do, Concho Minick and the Murrins — who own about 25 percent of the business — want Billy Bob’s put up for sale.
Last month, Wallach extended until July 21 a temporary restraining order that allows Concho Minick to remain as manager. Billy Bob’s has operated without a hitch since then, with the company issuing a statement last week saying that the legal dispute will “in no way” interfere with the bar’s future stability.
Most of Friday’s hearing was spent parsing the impact of a company agreement and a certificate of formation signed in 2011 when Billy Bob’s Texas Investments LLC was formed.
They can’t take the good to shoehorn in a claim and ignore the bad.
Marshall Searcy, the attorney for the majority owners
Both sides agreed that the operating agreement signed in January 2011 was “horribly crafted” since it calls for unanimous board approval for any major operating decision. The same document has a provision that prohibits an investor from filing a lawsuit without the board’s approval.
After the hearing, Philip Murrin, whose company Murrin Brothers 1885 joined Concho Minick in suing the majority owners, said while the Stockyards development and Billy Bob’s are “inextricably linked,” the lawsuit is mostly concerned with how Billy Bob’s will be run.
“What are our rights? How are we going to operate and how are we going to govern this company?” Murrin asked.
If Wallach decides to essentially dismiss the case, there won’t be a hearing on July 21, said Mark Torian, another attorney representing the minority owners. If the judge rules against them, it is possible that they will appeal.
“Absolutely. Otherwise we are left in a complete deadlock. That is the issue. We are in a deadlock on the corporate governance issues and we need guidance from that and that is why we have thrown ourselves at the mercy of the court,” Torian said.