UPDATED, 12:10 p.m., Sept. 27: The industry may have its very own “rocket man.”
Billionaire investor Ron Burkle threatened to “crush” and “go thermonuclear” on Sydell Holdings’ Andrew Zobler if he refused to step down as CEO of their joint venture, the hotel developer alleges in a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court Tuesday.
Sydell claims Burkle’s alleged attempts to oust Zobler and install a handpicked successor violate their joint-venture agreement and seeks “preliminary injunctive relief” to block the move.
According to the complaint, Sydell and Burkle’s Yucaipa U.S. Hospitality Partners signed a joint venture agreement in September 2011, installing Zobler as CEO. But in recent years, Burkle pushed to replace Zobler with Jeffrey Gault and tried to demote Zobler to the role of “Chairman and Chief Creative Officer.”
During a Sept. 25 meeting, Burkle allegedly told Zobler that the switch was “not a negotiation” and that he would “go thermonuclear” and launch several lawsuits if he refused to go along with it.
A spokesperson for Yucaipa said Zobler “did a good job of managing the first few hotels owned by Ron Burkle and Yucaipa, but became overwhelmed by the growth over the last few years. Mr. Zobler had recently agreed that it was time for him to step down as CEO and focus on what he is good at by becoming Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, but apparently decided instead to file these claims, which will be proven in court to be without merit.”
In New York, Sydell is best known for developing the NoMad hotel in partnership with Yucaipa.
This story was updated to include a statement from Yucaipa.