UPDATED, Dec. 23, 11:05 a.m.: Frankie Walker Jr., a childhood friend of Lebron James who co-owns the Unknwn men’s store in Wynwood with the NBA superstar, is accused of skipping out on a construction bill for more than $300,000 connected to an unrelated retail venture in the Miami Design District.
The contractor, Miami-based design and construction firm Twenty Two Group, reduced the debt by more than half in a settlement agreement that included exclusive limited edition sneakers as partial payment. But Walker allegedly reneged on the seven-month-old deal, according to court documents recently filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Walker, James and a third partner, Jaron Kanfer, opened their Unknwn Wynwood location in early December during Miami Art Week. However, James and Kanfer were not involved in the Design District project.
“He defaulted again,” said Twenty Two Group owner Cole Haynes. “In the meantime, they opened the Unknwn store in Wynwood with a lot of fanfare during Art Basel. We were hoping to work something out and that he would honor his agreement with us. It’s the right thing to do.”
Kenneth Loo, a spokesperson for Walker, said his client denies any personal liability for the money owed to Twenty Two Group. “Mr. Walker Jr. contests the validity of the settlement,” Loo added.
Twenty Two Group, which Haynes said built out the Unknwn store in Aventura Mall, sued Walker’s now defunct company Morwalk Group in 2016 for nonpayment of $311,415 in construction services for a men’s retail store located on the ground floor of the City View Garage in the Design District developed by Craig Robins’ Dacra.
“We do high-end, luxury retail work internationally,” Haynes said. “We built a number of stores in the Design District including Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin and Christian Dior, to name a few.”
Haynes said Walker contracted Twenty Two Group to build an urban street style store unrelated to Unknwn. “Frankie just quit paying his bills,” Haynes said. “He defaulted on the contract and we got stuck with finishing the space for the landlord.”
In 2017, Twenty Two Group won a default judgment against Morwalk for $359,583, which included attorney fees, according to court records. Two years later, on June 28, Walker signed a payment plan agreement, stating that Twenty Two Group agreed to accept $122,000 instead of the full amount owed. Walker agreed to pay $50,000 with “first drop” Nike sneakers worth at least $200, each.
He was supposed to provide four limited edition kicks per month, along with a $1,000 monthly payment for 36 months. “To the extent the settlement negotiations involved payment in the form of sneakers, those would have been from Mr. Walker’s personal sneakers collection,” Loo said.
According to a Nov. 20 motion filed by Twenty Two Group’s attorney Nicholas Siegfried, Walker made an initial down payment of $36,000 and two $1,000 payments in July and August. Since then, Walker failed to continue making the monthly payments and has not provided Twenty Two Group with any shoes, the motion alleges. “We are now seeking the total judgment of $359,583 minus the $38,000 he’s paid,” Siegried said.
But on Dec. 11, Walker’s attorney Peter Tappert filed a motion that alleges Siegfried and Haynes got his client to sign the agreement before he had a chance to review it. In the motion, Tappert, who declined comment, accused them of obtaining Walker’s signature in an unethical manner. “The settlement that plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel procured from defendant was obtained by misrepresentation in violation of the Florida Bar’s ethics and disciplinary rules,” Tappert wrote.
Siegried denied any wrongdoing. “I disagree with opposing counsel’s contentions in response to the motion for entry of final judgment against Walker,” Siegfried said. “I look forward to presenting our case to the court at the next hearing.”