Crime San Antonio horse-drawn carriage company gallops into bankruptcy amid fight over sale

21:20  12 november  2019
21:20  12 november  2019 Source:   expressnews.com

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The horse-drawn carriages operated by H.R.H. Carriage Co. and Yellow Rose Carriage Co. are familiar sights in downtown San Antonio, offering quaint joyrides for tourists.

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But beneath the Old World charm, a bitter fight is playing out over ownership of the two companies.

It started peacefully enough, with longtime owners Richard and Ann Van Dyke striking a deal to sell the companies to Stephanie and Richard Buck, who moved from England to San Antonio four years ago.

Before both deals could be completed, though, relations between the Bucks and Van Dykes soured, leading the couples to sue each other in state District Court. The fight essentially is over how much money they owe each other.

For now, the Van Dykes still own Yellow Rose, and the Bucks control H.R.H.

On Wednesday, a day after the Van Dykes filed a motion to have the the Bucks held in contempt for allegedly saddling both companies with debt in violation of a court order, Stephanie Buck filed an emergency bankruptcy petition for H.R.H. The contempt hearing that had been set for Friday was dropped as a result.

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As part of their contempt motion, the Van Dykes wanted the court to order the Bucks to surrender their passports because they are not U.S. citizens and they “pose a flight risk.”

H.R.H. listed up to $50,000 in assets and liabilities ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 in its bare-bones bankruptcy petition. In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a company seeks to reorganize its debts, keep the business operating and pay creditors over time.

Yellow Rose did not file for bankruptcy.

David L. Treat, a San Antonio lawyer for the Van Dykes, said his clients expect to be vindicated.

“We look forward to being able to move forward and establish that we haven’t been paid,” Treat said Monday.

Stephanie Buck had no comment. Scott M. Noel, an attorney representing the Bucks in the litigation, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

H.R.H. was operating over the weekend, according to Gary Gilbert, San Antonio Police Department’s transportation services manager. A Yellow Rose carriage was spotted outside the Menger Hotel Monday afternoon.

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H.R.H. and Yellow Rose are among five carriage companies with permits to operate downtown. The others are Bluebonnet Carriage, Lollypop Carriage and Lonestar Carriage.

Each company is permitted to operate five carriages at any one time, according to city staff. Each permit costs $600 annually.

Yellow Rose’s website says Anne Van Dyke was among those who founded the company in 1982. She and Richard Van Dyke married in 1991, and he later bought H.R.H. Both companies share a “large selection of carriage horses.”

The Bucks moved to San Antonio from England in 2015, obtained visas and started working for H.R.H. and Yellow Rose. They say in court papers they and the Van Dykes discussed a deal for the businesses before the move. The Van Dykes say the Bucks approached them about buying the businesses in 2017.

As part of a complex agreement executed in writing in November 2017, the Van Dykes agreed to sell their stock and assets in the companies for a combined $1.8 million. The Bucks agreed to pay $200,000 for H.R.H. at closing and $150,000 for Yellow Rose, and finance the remainder with the Van Dykes, a copy of the agreement filed with court papers shows.

The Bucks were to buy Yellow Rose only after completing the purchase of H.R.H., but would operate both as a single business operation, the Van Dykes say in their lawsuit.

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The Bucks counter that although the businesses were managed together, they were not operated as a single unit.

The revenue generated by both businesses would be split evenly by the Bucks and Van Dykes. The Van Dykes would pay a monthly management fee to the Bucks and share expenses.

In addition, the Bucks leased from Anne Van Dyke a residence — an apartment, ranch and barn on Creekview Drive on the Northeast Side. The Bucks also leased from the Van Dykes the carriage house at 300 Austin, the Van Dykes say in in their suit.

The Van Dykes accuse the Bucks of failing to make monthly payments under the H.R.H. promissory note. The Bucks also allegedly failed to “properly allocate and divide” the revenue of both businesses.

In addition, the Van Dykes allege both companies’ operating expenses were unusually high because the Bucks were paying personal expenses with company funds.

The Van Dykes seek more than $250,000 in damages, up to $1 million. They also want the court to declare the H.R.H. purchase agreement void.

The Bucks counter that after they became owners of H.R.H. in late 2017, the Van Dykes kept both companies’ revenue in a safe. The Bucks say they had no access to the safe.

The Bucks accuse Anne Van Dyke of improperly withdrawing $30,000 from the joint account in January, which “placed a strain on the Companies.”

The parties entered mediation in June. The Bucks agreed to pay $1.5 million for the remaining amount owed on H.R.H. and the entire Yellow Rose purchase price by July 9, the Bucks say in court papers.

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The Bucks did not make the payment and the agreement was voided, they say.

Then, on July 25, the Bucks allege the Van Dykes wrongfully entered the carriage house at 300 Austin.

A San Antonio Police Department report said Richard Van Dyke called police to request they stand by while he changed the locks on the property. He told them that he was the landlord and that the Bucks were behind several rent payments.

Stephanie Buck also called police because she was upset Van Dyke changed the locks. She said she was current on the rent payments, the report stated.

“The Van Dykes’ wrongful actions were and still are disrupting the status quo by preventing the Bucks from operating their businesses,” the Bucks said in a court filing. “The actions have also affected the Bucks’ immigration and visa situation because the requirements for the visa are dependent on their acquiring” both companies.

Out of fear of not being able to remain in the U.S., the Bucks said they overpaid the Van Dykes by almost $266,000.

The Bucks have sued the Van Dykes for breach of contract, civil theft and fraudulent inducement, among other claims.

Various temporary restraining orders have been issued since the Van Dykes first filed suit in July. The latest, issued Nov. 1, bars the Van Dykes from entering the building at 300 Austin and interfering in the businesses’ operations.

The TRO also prohibits the Bucks from disbursing any cash from the businesses to themselves and increasing their salaries. The parties agreed to extend the TRO until Dec. 16.

It’s that TRO that the Van Dykes allege the Bucks violated by having both companies take on debt. The Van Dykes say the Bucks added debt to Yellow Rose even though they have not made any payments to buy it.

An initial hearing in the bankruptcy case is set for Wednesday.

Patrick Danner is a San Antonio-based staff writer covering banking and civil courts. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | pdanner@express-news.net | Twitter: @AlamoPD

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