The Real Deal Miami

Majority owner of Bâoli and El Tucán nightclubs sues ex-partner alleging fraud and embezzlement

Yet, attorney for minority owner alleges millions of dollars were transferred out of the businesses to majority owner's personal account
By Keith Larsen | January 29, 2019 12:00PM

Michael Ridard, Mathieu Massa, and Bâoli Miami (Credit: Instagram and OpenTable)

The majority owner of the popular South Florida nightclubs Bâoli Miami, El Tucán and Marion is suing his former business partner alleging fraud and embezzlement over expenses at his venues.

Mathieu Massa, president and CEO of Massa Investment Group, alleges in a suit filed last month in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court that Michael Ridard, who managed the three nightclubs, had about $1.5 million in business credit card charges and expense reimbursements which were “unsubstantiated.”

He further alleges that Ridard made business deals with “certain new vendors,” including one, MC Hospitality Supply, that he owned. Massa claims that company only delivered about 20 percent of the supplies ordered and never refunded the money for the other goods.

“Ridard breached fiduciary duty owed to Massa by engaging in fraudulent and competitive activities, including embezzlement and self-dealing to the detriment of Massa,” the lawsuit states.

Massa is now suing for unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.

Ridard’s lawyer, John Schulte, however, strongly refutes these allegations. “There is not a grain of truth to any of them,” he said.

Schulte instead alleges that the dispute arose over an audit that Ridard requested of the nightclubs’ accounting books in May 2018. Ridard owned 10 percent of the three nightclubs and Massa owned 90 percent, according to the complaint. For months, Ridard had grown suspicious that he was not getting his fair share of the profits, Schulte said.

Schulte alleges Ridard then hired his own CPA to perform an audit, in which the auditor allegedly found millions of dollars transferred out of the businesses to Massa’s personal account.

Ridard believes that the money went to Massa’s other unspecified real estate ventures, according to Schulte.

After bringing these claims to Massa, Schulte said Ridard was placed on administrative leave in November 2018, then fired in December. Shortly after he was fired, Massa filed the suit against him.

Ridard is now seeking arbitration.

A spokesperson for Massa Investment Group declined to comment on the allegations. “The facts of this case will ultimately be uncovered during the course of the litigation and my client, Mr. Massa, will allow the judicial process to take its course,” the spokesperson said via email. An attorney for Massa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Massa founded Massa Investment Group in 2009. In December, he bought the ground-level space at Axis Brickell at 1111 Southwest First Avenue that holds El Tucán and Marion for $11.5 million, property records show.

Born on the French Riviera, Massa is an heir to a family that founded a large tire company in Europe which eventually sold to Continental Tire of Germany in 2011, according to Massa Investment’s website.

In addition to owning the nightclubs, Massa runs Massa Construction, which has developed spec homes in Miami Beach and France.

In 2017, Massa listed one of these homes in Miami Beach’s Sunset Islands for $17.95 million. Villa Aman, a seven-bedroom, 7,359-square-foot home at 1826 West 23rd Street, is still on the market, according to Realtor.com.