Millionaire businessman Marcus Lemonis has been hit with two blistering lawsuits accusing the television host of deliberately destroying small businesses on his show, The Profit, in order to make them ripe for his takeover, DailyMail.com can reveal.
The owners of two companies, Bowery Kitchen Supplies and women’s clothing store Gooberry, are suing the presenter and production company Machete, claiming they were left drowning in debt after appearing on the CNBC reality series in 2014 and 2016.
The show, which premiered in 2013, follows the business guru on his hunt for struggling small businesses, which he then offers to save by typically presenting them with his financial backing and acumen in exchange for an ownership stake.
If the owners agree to the deal, Lemonis assumes full control of the company and uses his expertise to improve operations and make the business profitable.
Business guru Marcus Lemonis is being sued by two small businesses featured on his CNBC reality show, The Profit
Lemonis is accused of driving Bowery Kitchen Supplies ‘to the ground’ after offering to invest in the company and make it profitable in a 2016 episode (pictured)
But Gooberry and Bowery Kitchen Supplies – who are being represented by the same law firm, Los Angeles-based Gerard Fox – have claimed their deal with Lemonis was actually a ‘bad faith’ scheme to make them indebted to the star so that he could take over their assets and leave them with nothing.
In legal filings obtained by DailyMail.com, both companies accuse Lemonis of preying on small businesses and slowly drowning them in debt ‘owed to his personally controlled companies in order to expand his own empire.’
‘Lemonis portrays himself as a savior to small businesses, when, in reality, he destroys the businesses he purports to save from the inside out,’ court documents state.
The businessman, 47, has enjoyed a meteoric business and TV career after being mentored by legendary Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca, a friend of his adoptive family in Miami.
Lemonis was born in Beirut, Lebanon where was adopted by a Greek-Lebanese couple from Florida after being abandoned at four days old.
He worked his way up through his family’s Chevrolet car showrooms before buying up RV dealerships on Iacocca’s suggestion. He is now CEO of Camping World, which had a $2billion valuation when it launched on the stock market in 2016.
According to court documents obtained by DailyMail.com, Bowery Kitchen Supplies was successful and turning over upwards of $3million a year when Lemonis ‘seduced’ owner Howard Nourieli and his business partner and ex-wife Robyn Coval to appear on the sho
Their deal with Lemonis ultimately left them saddled with debt and the former couple were ultimately forced to close Bowery Kitchen’s doors in March 2020
In legal papers for Bowery Kitchen Supplies, attorneys accuse Lemonis of being ‘a false prophet who uses his fame and fortune to loot small businesses.’
The filing states Bowery Kitchen Supplies was successful and turning over upwards of $3million a year when Lemonis ‘seduced’ owner Howard Nourieli and his business partner and ex-wife Robyn Coval to appear on the show.
Lawyers say the former couple were approached to take part, but Robyn was reluctant. They eventually agreed and appeared in the show’s fourth season in October 2016.
In the episode, Lemonis was seen offering to invest in Bowery Kitchen by acquiring a 33.3 per cent interest in the business for $350,000.
But according the lawsuit, he later abandoned the aired deal and instead of helping the store ‘profit’, forced it into unrecoverable debt.’
After the cameras stopped rolling Lemonis allegedly ‘began to drive the company into the ground by unnecessarily liquidating [its] inventory at steeply discounted prices.’
He also ‘negligently’ renovated and rebranded the store beyond recognition, leaving Nourieli and Coval with over half a million dollars in in payables they could not afford.
In a separate lawsuit being handled by the same law firm, Gerard Fox attorneys allege Lemonis used the same methods to grab control of thriving clothing retailer Gooberry and its signature line Courage.B. Pictured: A now-defunct Courage.b store in New York City
Since appearing on the show in 2014, Gooberry owners Nicholas Goureau and Stephanie Menken (pictured) say their business has gone from a $2.6million valuation ‘to being practically insolvent,’ the lawsuit states
Lemonis is also accused of using Gooberry, its brand Courage.B, and the family’s expertise to grow his new clothing brand MARCUS
‘Lemonis conned Howard and Robyn into thinking he wanted to expand their business and brand and help them profit,’ documents state.
‘Instead, Howard and Robyn were swindled and victimized and saddled with debt, a tarnished reputation with vendors and longterm customers, ruined business relationships, and shattered dreams.’
The couple were ultimately forced to close Bowery Kitchen’s doors in March 2020.
Nourieli also alleges that after the show aired, the star manufactured and sold kitchen items through his own business, Camping World and other outlets using Bowery Kitchen’s trademarked logo without his permission.
Lawyers claim Lemonis and the show’s producers ‘knowingly and intentionally made false representations that they would be helping Bowery Kitchen and that the relationship was more akin to a partnership.
‘In reality, they were setting Plaintiffs up to fail so that defendants could take over the business and, more accurately, forever ruin the family business while knocking off the company’s trademarked products.
The complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks punitive damages and millions of dollars in damages from Lemonis, his entities, Camping World, and Machete.
The lawsuit also points to Lemonis’s famous line in the show: ‘There is one condition, I am 100 percent in charge.’
‘This dominant persona affords Lemonis the opportunity to saddle the businesses with exorbitant debt and make them ever beholden to him or his entities.
The lawsuit states Lemonis had also forced through Gooberry’s purchase of fashion store, Runway Boutique in 2016 after meeting the owner, Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Raffel (pictured) 68, who became his second wife
‘Eventually, Lemonis calls in his debt to take all of the assets for himself, leaving the original owners to try to climb out of the deep hole that he put them in.’
Gerard Fox attorneys allege Lemonis used the same methods to grab control of thriving clothing retailer Gooberry and its signature line Courage.B – while trying to oust its founding family members.
The company started in 2008 as an upscale women’s fashion chain operated by Neomi Goureau and her children, Nicholas Goureau and Stephanie Menken.
It focused on clothes and accessories inspired by the family’s French roots and had seven stores from The Hamptons to Palm Beach, Florida.
During their 2014 appearance on The Profit, Lemonis agreed to invest $800,000 for a 30 per cent stake in the company. Some $200,000 of that was for renovations.
But while the show was filming, the star allegedly spent ‘millions’ renovating the stores and claimed he would cover the costs, the lawsuit states.
When Nicholas and Stephanie received the ‘exorbitant’ renovation bills, the lawsuit alleges: ‘Lemonis said that if they no longer wanted to do the deal, they would have to pay him back the millions he spent on Gooberry – a demand that was impossible for the plaintiffs to meet.’
Court papers further allege the star and his companies, ML Retail LLC and Marcus Lemonis LLC, ‘knowingly and purposefully mismanaged the company and used it solely for their own personal gain.
‘Defendants are siphoning money from the company, actively preventing it from meeting its obligations and looting its assets.’
Lemonis is also accused of forcing through Gooberry’s purchase of fashion store, Runway Boutique in 2016 after meeting the owner, Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Raffel, 68, who became his second wife.
‘On information and belief, Lemonis wanted Gooberry to acquire Runway because Lemonis was romantically interested in its owner Raffel, not because he believed the acquisition would help Gooberry or ML Fashion, which was formed shortly after the acquisition.’
The court filing claims Gooberry and ML Fashion paid to completely renovate the Runway store in Deerfield, Illinois, and stock it with new inventory.
It adds: ‘Once again, these expenditures forced the companies to take on additional debt from Lemonis to meet its basic expenses.’
It is alleged the TV tycoon has ultimately used Gooberry, its brand Courage.B, and the family’s expertise to grow his new clothing brand MARCUS.
The company claims Lemonis has closed its retail stores and moved its stock plus furniture and fixtures to his own businesses.
Since Lemonis’s involvement in June 2014, Gooberry has gone from a $2.6million valuation ‘to being practically insolvent,’ the lawsuit states.
A third case rumbling through the courts concerns husband and wife Michael and Kathleen Ference, whose Greek diner chain was also featured on The Profit in 2014
The couple claims Lemonis froze them out of the business and later changed its name ‘The Simple Greek’ despite their protests, according to the suit
‘Without Lemonis’ involvement, Gooberry would have continued to thrive and likely would be worth several million dollars.’
‘It is clear that he is planning on foreclosing Gooberry and even further removing plantiffs from the fashion and retail business they worked so hard to build.
‘Without the court’s intervention, the company will be irreparably harmed.’
The family is demanding Gooberry is wound up and with a trustee appointed. Their filing says: ‘Liquidation is the only feasible means whereby plaintiffs may obtain a fair return of their investment.’
Dailymail.com reached out to Lemonis’ lawyers, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, by emails and phone for a comment on both cases. The firm did not respond.
Lawyers for Lemonis however, have filed a motion to dismiss both lawsuits, calling the allegations ‘baseless.’
‘Nearly four years after appearing on the show, [Bowery Kitchen] closed their New York City retail store,’ the filing states.
‘Despite this gap between Plaintiffs’ appearance on the show and Plaintiffs’ closing the business, and despite benefiting from The Profit and Lemonis’ renovations to Plaintiffs’ store, Plaintiffs now blame ML Defendants for their inability to keep the store open.’
As for Gooberry, Lemonis’s attorneys say Goureau and Menken are still the majority equity owners of the company, and control the majority of seats on its board of directors.
‘Yet, unlike Lemonis, Plaintiffs never put any money into Gooberry of their other business ventures with Lemonis – they only took money out,’ documents state.
Meanwhile, production company Machete told Dailymail.com: ‘Machete is a small production company that has been drawn into a meritless dispute between Marcus Lemonis and other businesses.
‘We of course deny these allegations and expect that our position will be fully vindicated.’
A third case rumbling through the courts concerns husband and wife Michael and Kathleen Ference, whose Greek diner chain was also featured on The Profit in 2014.
They allege Lemonis also created a debt nightmare for them after promising $350,000 for a 55 per cent stake in their The Big Fat Greek Gyro franchises in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.
Papers filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County say Lemonis handed them a check for the amount on the show.
But this was then taken back after the cameras stopped rolling – and they never received the money.
The couple claim the star then froze them out of the business, started in 2005 and known for home-style food based on old family recipes from Kathleen’s Greek heritage.
Its name was changed to ‘The Simple Greek’ despite their protests, say court documents.
When the Ferences asked about the buy-in, they were told it had already been spent on refurbishing three of the chain’s locations, it is alleged.
Lemonis formed ML Foods in 2014 and the following year named it as the sole owner of The Simple Greek without the couple’s knowledge, say the papers, filed in 2016 and ongoing.
He sold the 24-branch chain in March this year for an undisclosed amount.
Lemonis has told Courthouse News Service after the case was filed: ‘Let me be clear. The Simple Greek is a brand new concept that I created.
‘I’m not Santa Claus. I don’t just create a concept and hand it over to people for doing nothing.
‘They thought that they were just going to get a free gift. They put no money in, they haven’t done any work.’
Both the Bowery and Gooberry filings demand a jury trial. Lemonis and Machete Productions have filed notices of motions to dismiss the complaints.