MANHATTAN (CN) — Boasting the largest 10-pin bowling center in the world, Bowlmor AMF has roughly 300 locations across North America and a demand for more than $48 million in lost wages from dozens of fired workers.
The July 12 complaint in Oneida County Supreme Court comes from 64 ex-Bowlmor AMF workers who have brought sealed charges of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Proceeding pseudonymously in the complaint, the workers say they each could have worked another decade before reaching retirement age but were unceremoniously pink-slipped after an average of 17 years on the job, earning $81,199 a year.
Not including exemplary damages for pain and suffering and willful conduct, the workers say they expect to bring home about $48 million in lost back and front pay.
They filed the underlying lawsuit to protect their rights in light of “two significant transactions,” the first of which occurred in September 2016.
That month, according to the complaint, the conflicted directors of Bowlmor AMF rendered the company insolvent by transferring of $175 million to controlling shareholder Cerberus Capital Management.
A private-equity firm known for distressed investing, Delaware-based Cerberus is named after the mythological three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. It counts more than $30 billions in assets, and has former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle as the chairman of its global assets division.
Bowlmor’s former workers fear that the inside deal they allege between their employer and Cerberus will harm their ability to collect damages from their discrimination claims.
“Nowhere in the 2016 financial statements, nor in any financials published since then, has Bowlmor AMF disclosed the Bowlmor EEOC action, even though it had received copious written notifications of the claims prior to the close of the fiscal year on July 3, 2016 and subsequent correspondence,” the complaint states.
“The plaintiffs made it unequivocally clear in writing on several occasions that its group was growing in the number and plaintiffs’ damages were escalating,” the lawsuit states. “With a showing of $48,564,970 for lost back and front pay to a normal retirement age of 62 years old, the plaintiffs’ claims are very material and must be disclosed in financial statements and with appropriate reserves as a contingent liability.”
Since the ex-workers seek doubled damages, they alleged that Bowlmor must disclose $100 million in possible liabilities.
The second transaction has not yet closed, according to the complaint, which notes that Bowlmor AMF announced last month that the strategic investment firm Atairos seeks to acquire a substantial position in the company.
“This transaction is no more coincidental and is equally as suspect as the Bowlmor AMF’s board decision to add debt to an already crippled balance sheet and its fraudulent conveyance of $175 million to Cerberus all while Cerberus was shopping Bowlmor AMF for a buyer,” the complaint states.
“The pending sale adds further complexity with new legal entities, controlling ownership changes, and is expected to add another level of leverage on an already over-leveraged and declining business.”
Atairos, which is not a party to the action, is not accused of wrongdoing. In addition to Bowlmor AMF and Cerberus, the complaint names as defendants Bowlmor AMF CEO Tom Shannon, chief financial officer Brett Parker, seven of the company’s directors.
The 11-count complaint seeks $100 million and the recision of the Cerberus stock purchase.
Daniel Dowe, an attorney in Bronxville, New York, represents the workers.
Cerberus declined to comment on the case, while Bowlmor AMF did not return a phone call by press time.
Of the 64 anonymous plaintiffs, more than three-quarters are men. They hail from 16 states plus New York, including one employee in Utica.
With operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada, Bowlmor AMF was known as Strike Holdings before it acquired AMF and then Brunswick after emerging from its second bankruptcy.
The company closed down its historic Bowlmor Lanes at Union Square in Manhattan shortly after this reorganization. Among A-listers who were known to knock down pins at the 76-year-old haunt during were Al Pacino, Will Smith, Lindsay Lohan and even former President Richard Nixon.
The New York Post counted 50 lawsuits against the company, which also courted controversy for its brief acceptance of an investment by late Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.