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Williams Mullen and Virginia State Fair Owner Sued

11/20/14

Williams Mullen

and Virginia State Fair Owner Sued

Summary: A deal that never came to fruition more than two years ago has led to a lawsuit against Williams Mullen and the State Fair of Virginia.

A deal that never came to fruition more than two years ago has led to a lawsuit against Williams Mullen and the State Fair of Virginia, according to The Richmond Biz Sense.

Williams Mullen

The lawsuit is for $14 million and it was filed by Mini-USA, which wanted to buy the State Fair of Virginia back in 2012. The company is based in New Kent County.

Also named in the lawsuit is the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants took part in a scheme to control the fair for itself. The company suing has alleged violations of state trade secret laws, conspiracy and legal malpractice.

The pursuit of the State Fair by Mini-USA, which is run by concert promoter Gratton Stephens, began in 2011. The company also wanted to purchase the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.

The items went on the market when the prior owner went into bankruptcy.

Williams Mullen was hired by Mini-USA to handle the purchase. Mini-USA made an offer by the middle of 2012 and even had a purchase agreement in place.

The company also approached the Farm Bureau to become an investor in the deal, which is a client of Williams Mullen.

The Farm Bureau and Mini-USA met multiple times to discuss a potential investment deal, but the assets of the fair were sold at auction in May of 2012 to Universal Fairs, which is based in Tennessee.

Mini-USA started to negotiate with Universal Fairs to work to buy the fair and also negotiated with the Farm Bureau on an investment, which would have been for $1.5 million.

The Farm Bureau ended the talks because it secretly tried to acquire the fair, according to the lawsuit. The asking price for the fair's assets were also raised in an effort to move Mini-USA away from any interest.

"At this time, Mini-USA and Stephens had no idea that Farm Bureau and others at Williams Mullen were advancing another agenda, in concert with Lovell and Universal Fairs," the lawsuit states.

The fair was eventually purchased from Universal Fairs by Virginia Farm Bureau.

"Farm Bureau had used Mini-USA's proprietary information to act as a competitor, rather than a partner, of Mini-USA, and had done so with the assistance of Mini-USA's law firm, Williams Mullen," the suit states.

The lawsuit also explains that Sandy Graham, an attorney at Williams Mullen, was "mortified by the actions of his law partners and firm with respect to its conduct toward its client Mini-USA. So much so that used his own money to cover the $114,000 in legal fees billed by Williams Mullen to Mini-USA."

The lawsuit was filed last week in Richmond Circuit Court. It alleges eight counts of state trade secret laws violations and conspiracy against both Williams Mullen and the Farm Bureau. Other counts include legal malpractice, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.

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