Chef slaps National Harbor business consultant with lawsuit
Alleges restaurant partnership soured, costing $17M in lost revenue
A prominent Clinton chef is suing a National Harbor minority business consultant for more than $17 million in lost income, claiming the contractor tried to monopolize a restaurant that would be owned jointly by the two and then reneged on the development deal, causing the project to fall through.
In court documents filed Dec. 22 in Prince George's County Circuit Court, Chef Timothy Dean claims that he and the contractor, Ron Adolph, agreed to partner to open the Timothy Dean Bistro at National Harbor in Oxon Hill in spring 2008.
At the time, Dean was allegedly in the process of brokering a deal with National Harbor's developer, the Peterson Cos. Dean said the restaurant project was initially being financed by a bank, but as the economy declined in fall 2008 and financing became more difficult, he said the Peterson Cos. recommended he work with Adolph.
Adolph, CEO of The TAC Cos., a consulting company that provides minority business enterprises services to Peterson Cos., came on board as a private investor in November 2008 after visiting Dean's Baltimore restaurant and soon convinced Dean that he would be the venture's sole investor, according to the lawsuit.
Dean is considered a world-renowned chef who has appeared on the Food Network and owns the Timothy Dean Bistro restaurant in Baltimore, the city where he now lives. During an interview with The Gazette, Dean said he envisioned a high-end French restaurant and jazz lounge with a performance stage, $150,000 sound system, an open kitchen and a VIP area for celebrity guests.
The restaurant was expected to open before the end of 2009 and generate $60 million in revenue and $8 million profit over the 10-year leasing agreement for Dean and TD Harbor Inc., a company Dean formed to open the National Harbor restaurant, according to the lawsuit.
But the lawsuit alleges that shortly after signing a lease agreement in April 2009, Adolph sent Dean contracts that would make Adolph the majority owner of the restaurant and outlined TAC-TD, a proposed joint venture of TD Harbor and TAC.
TAC-TD also would have nearly 50 percent ownership of any future restaurants, book publishing revenues, television appearances and intellectual property of Dean and his restaurant group.
Dean said when he refused to agree to the deals and after months of renegotiation attempts, Adolph in October stopped payments to contractors preparing the restaurant. The Peterson Cos. terminated Dean's lease in December due to default on construction, according to the lawsuit.
"I am angry. I relied on Adolph to get me open, and clearly he had a different motive," Dean said. "I could not commit to him owning me for the rest of my life."
Adolph issued a statement through his publicist, Sandra Wills Hannon, denying any wrongdoing, adding that "he has abided by all of his contractual obligations" and that "this lawsuit comes as a surprise and a disappointment but will not discourage Mr. Adolph from supporting and fostering minority businesses."
Dean said that due to the contract disputes, other investors who were interested in the project have been reluctant to invest, and the Peterson Cos. has not agreed to renegotiate the leasing space.
The Peterson Cos. did not return calls for comment by press time.
E-mail Joshua Garner at firstname.lastname@example.org.