'American Sniper's' Widow Sues Execs
DALLAS (CN) - The widow of late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle claims in court that her husband's business partners "hijacked" his tactical-training company after he was shot and killed and are freezing her out of its books.
Taya Kyle, of Midlothian, sued Craft International LLC, Craft International Risk Management LLC and former hedge fund managers Steven Young and Bo French, in Dallas County Court.
Kyle claims her late husband co-founded Craft, which provides tactical training for the military and law enforcement, professional consulting and management.
She says he served as the face of the company and created and owned the company's distinctive skull logo.
In February, Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were shot to death at a firing range in Erath County, allegedly by a troubled Marine veteran, Eddie Ray Routh.
Taya Kyle accuses the defendants of using her husband's death to usurp Craft's business for their own benefit.
"(I)t is believed that defendants Young and French diverted Craft's assets, contracts, copyrights and trademarks to another entity for their own personal benefit, and to the exclusion of Kyle and his widow," the 28-page complaint states. "Upon information and belief, while Kyle was building and developing Craft, defendants were manipulating Craft's stock, mishandling funds, diverting assets and mismanaging and usurping Craft's contracts."
In the lawsuit, Kyle describes Young as an "experienced thief." She claims he was arrested for burglary of a vehicle in 1988.
Young she describes as an unsuccessful fund manager at Apriven Management.
"Apriven was one of the hedge funds that invested with the Petters Group Worldwide, LLC, whose founder Thomas Petters was charged with and later convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice for overseeing a $2.5 billion dollar Ponzi scheme," the complaint states.
Kyle adds: "Young and French weaseled their way into Craft, claiming they were the financial geniuses necessary to make Craft a financial success."
She claims the defendants failed to purchase her majority interest in the company within a specified time after her husband's death, and that since she had not been admitted as a substitute member of the company, she is deemed an assignee.
"Although Young and French had repeatedly represented to Taya Kyle that Craft's books and records were available for inspection, when she retained legal counsel and requested that she and her representatives be allowed to inspect and copy Craft's books and records, Craft refused, advising her that as an assignee, she had no rights to review Craft's books and records," the complaint states.
Kyle claims that on Dec. 6 Young demanded she sell her interest in the company for $12,500, which he claimed was the cost of having a business valuation performed to determine the fair market value of her interest in the company.
She believes Young and French transferred the company's contracts and assets to another entity without her knowledge or consent.
French disputed Kyle's accusations this week, telling the Dallas Morning News that the company's founders, including Chris Kyle, signed an operating agreement that limited the company solely to its members.
"None of the members ... wanted their spouses to become members in case of death or divorce," French told the Morning News, according to its Dec. 26 story. "Taya Kyle did not become a member of Craft upon Chris's death, but she does have certain rights. One of those is the right to have her interest bought by Craft at fair market value. Taya Kyle indicated her desire to divest herself of all interest in Craft. Craft agrees it is time for the parties to separate in a business sense, and it moved forward in the manner provided by the agreement," French told the newspaper.
This is the second high-profile lawsuit in which Taya Kyle is involved.
Her husband was sued by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura after the release of Chris Kyle's autobiography, " American Sniper ." The book described a confrontation between the men in San Diego at a wake for a SEAL who was killed in action.
According to that lawsuit: "Among other things, Chris Kyle alleged that Governor Ventura said he hates America, SEALs are murdering innocent people, and that SEALs deserve to die - statements which, according to Chris Kyle, ultimately caused him to punch Governor Ventura in the face, giving him a black eye.
"Governor Ventura sued Chris Kyle for defamation because the incident is a complete and total fabrication and, by concocting and publishing the story, Chris Kyle viciously and deliberately attacked Governor Ventura's character, honor, and reputation."
That federal lawsuit is set for a May 2014 trial in Minneapolis.
Taya Kyle has asked the court to move the trial to Dallas, citing the challenges of being a single parent and managing her late husband's affairs.
In the new lawsuit, Kyle seeks actual and punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligence, gross negligence, conversion, theft and conspiracy. She seeks disgorgement, appointment of a receiver and declaratory relief.
She is represented by Lawrence Friedman with Friedman Feiger.