Partners Squabble Over Music Venue

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Portland concert promoter Mike Thrasher claims his partners in the Hawthorne Theater pocketed company money and priced the venue out of the market by nearly doubling booking fees.

     Thrasher runs Mike Thrasher Presents, which books shows throughout Oregon and Washington. Thrasher says he bought in as half owner of Hawthorne Entertainment for $97,000 in 2007, and his promotion company continued to rent the theater for shows.
     At the time, Thrasher says the company’s other half-owner, Nicholas J. Yannariello, ran the business as the company’s president.
     Two years later, Yannariello moved to Hawaii, hired others to do his job and raised the theater’s rent to nearly three times the amount similar venues charge, according to the complaint.
     Yannariello’s father, Nicholas B. Yannariello, is a nominal shareholder and a party to the complaint, though the allegations focus on the younger Yannariello.
     Thrasher says he looked into the corporation’s finances and discovered that Nicholas J. had secretly given himself a raise, spent company money on his wedding and paid employees in cash, all in violation of the shareholders’ agreement.
     Yannariello also paid employees as independent contractors, though they were actually employees, failed to submit proper tax filings, and refused to implement the company’s inventory control system on liquor sales, the lawsuit states.
     When Thrasher called a shareholders’ meeting in June 2010 to confront the younger Yannariello, Thrasher says Yannariello threatened to expose Thrasher Presents’ trade secrets by publicizing Thrasher’s billing procedures.
     Thrasher also claims that Yannariello raised booking fees at the Hawthorne Theater from $400 to $700, though Thrasher’s company can rent similar venues for $75 to $200.
     Thrasher claims a shareholders’ meeting produced an agreement that the venue would continue to charge $400 per concert. But on June 5, Yannariello billed Thrasher for an extra $300 for the 19 concerts Thrasher had organized at the Hawthorne Theater since April 15, according to the complaint.
     While not a giant venue, the Hawthorne Theater holds an important place in the Portland music scene, as one of the city’s few all-ages venues.
     Thrasher wants the corporation dissolved.
     He also seek $114,000 from Nicholas J. Yannariello as reimbursement for company money he says Yannariello pocketed in the form of an unauthorized raise, car payments and “entertainment expenses.”
     He also seeks a court-appointed receiver to relieve the shareholder deadlock and an order barring Yannariello from “disparag(ing) any booking agent, vendor or supplier,” returning the booking rate to $400 per show, and keeping Yannariello from canceling or refusing to book shows.
     Thrasher is represented by Barton Bobbitt of Sisters, Ore.

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