Gordon Ramsay has turned to the London High Court in a bid to stop a former business partner he claims is muscling in on his lucrative merchandising deal in America.
The celebrity chef, who has become a TV star on both sides of the Atlantic with his reality restaurant shows and swearing, launched proceedings in London last month against Canadian kitchenware firm Sensio and its boss Danny Lavy.
Lavy has claimed he has a binding contract with the British chef’s business, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, allowing him to distribute pots, pans and other kitchenware to the giant US discount chain Kmart, according to the writ. Ramsay is seeking a ruling from a British judge that there is no such binding contract.
The claim is the latest twist in a feud between Ramsay and Lavy, who also owns the prestigious Laurier resturant in Montreal.
In March, Ramsay said he was suing the restaurant for £1.7 million (Dh9.76 million) after he was axed from the venture and his named was removed from the business. At the time, Lavy reportedly said he was already taking legal action against Ramsay in a separate matter, claiming as much as £40 million.
Now Ramsay’s claim filed in the High Court lifts the lid on the wider row that has turned the former business partners against each other.
Ramsay, 45, is no stranger to litigation and a feud with his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson was given a public airing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. But this latest legal spat concerns the complex world of celebrity merchandise licensing and distribution.
The dispute involving the Kmart range has its origins in 2009 when Ramsay signed a licensing agreement with Hertfordshire-based MPL Home, allowing it to make and distribute a range of kitchen products bearing Ramsay’s name. MPL sub-licensed the North American rights for some products to Sensio.
According to the High Court writ, Lavy held direct talks with Ramsay and in February last year both parties signed a “letter of intent”.
But Lavy argued the talks and letter amounted to a binding agreement that gave Sensio the right to be the distributor of the Ramsay kitchenware range through Kmart.
When Ramsay insisted the letter was not a binding contract, Sensio sued him in America, claiming he was in breach of contract. According to Ramsay’s British writ, the US court threw out the case, saying it had no jurisdiction over the matter. Now Ramsay is seeking a clear ruling from the High Court that the letter signed with Lavy and Sensio is not a binding contract and that he has not broken any contracts with Sensio or MPL. Ramsay is also seeking costs and unspecified damages.
MPL is named alongside Sensio as a defendant, but Ramsay’s claim makes clear it accepts MPL has done nothing wrong and states that the British firm has been included so all parties are covered by the court’s eventual decision.
Paul Rosen of MPL told Financial Mail that the dispute related to the North American companies and that his company still enjoyed a good relationship with Ramsay.
Ramsay’s rise to fame has led from restaurant kitchens to Hollywood. He began with Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which won three coveted Michelin stars in 2001. Then his empire expanded quickly, with Amaryllis in Glasgow, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, and eateries in Dubai, Tokyo and New York.
To most home cooks, however, he is best known as the fiery-tempered chef of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen.
A spokesman for Ramsay said: “We can confirm that a claim has been filed against these parties, but we cannot comment further as this is a legal matter.”
Ramsay is understood to be pleased with the range being sold through Kmart which includes stainless steel pots, coffee machines and chopping boards.
But it will now be for a British judge to rule who has the rights to be the distributor for the Kmart deal and whether the Canadian group that took on Britain’s most fiery-tempered chef has bitten off more than it can chew.