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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bob Vila Can Dissolve Web Company, Court Says

(CN) - TV handyman Bob Vila can cut ties with his website developer since they can't agree on business direction, the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled.

Vila, the longtime host of "This Old House" on PBS, formed BVWebTies LLC with businessman George J. Hill in 2000.

They formed WebTies to operate the BobVila.com website, which offered how-to articles and step-by-step videos.

BVWebTies was owned equally by Vila and Hill and shared office space with Vila's TV studio in Boston. Hill and several other employees worked from home.

Vila enjoyed widespread TV exposure and sponsorship dollars from Sears until 2007, when his TV show was canceled and Sears pulled its sponsorship.

Vila tried to get Hill to reinvent the website by sharing a $1 million investment in it. He proposed moving the office to New York City and hiring a professional general manager to run the Web business.

But Hill wanted to keep the business small and run it himself, balking at the $300,000 per year salary of a new general manager as the U.S. economy hit the skids late in the decade.

With the two sides at an impasse, Vila petitioned the court to dissolve the company. Hill fought these efforts and continued to run the company without Vila's involvement.

Vice Chancellor Leo Strine Jr. agreed with Vila that WebTies should be dissolved, citing the deadlock over "serious managerial issues."

"Uncontradicted evidence establishes that Vila and Hill are unable to agree on a strategic vision for, or the current operation of, WebTies. They have disagreed on several major initiatives, the strategic direction and capitalization of

WebTies, and important operational decisions, including failing to reach an agreement on renewing the company's office lease, with the result that the company operates out of cyberspace, ad hoc office suites, and coffee shops," Strine wrote.

Vila and Hill have not communicated directly since the lawsuit was filed in early 2009.

"Now that Vila has withdrawn the Vila IP (Internet Protocol), it is silly to think that WebTies can continue to operate BobVila.com. It cannot," the court concluded.

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