Remember how The South Butt LLC
-- a Mizzou freshman's apparel company that's getting sued by The North Face
for trademark infringement - has that motto, "Never Stop Relaxing!"? Well, on Friday, the student's father, Jim Winkelmann Sr
., stopped relaxing.
Eighteen minutes into a deposition held by the apparel giant's lawyers, he grew so enraged that a recess was called.
Now he's demanding that North Face's attorneys at Bryan Cave
withdraw from the case, insisting that the firm once represented him and is now drawing on that familiarity to impugn his character. Throw in concerns about stalking, and we have on our hands what South Butt attorney Albert S. Watkins
calls, "a monumental clusterfuck."
Meanwhile, South Butt's 19-year-old
founder Jimmy Winkelmann
, is headed to Panama City on Friday
for spring break. He'll be handing out South Butt t-shirts on the
North Face filed the federal
last August, generating much publicity
and revenue for the tiny company; South Butt answered with a cheeky
, and the judge ordered
both parties to mediate. Friday's deposition was supposed to be part of
that hashing-out-of-differences. That is, before it went off the rails.
Winkelmann Sr. says he arrived at the deposition prepared to
discuss the case. "We have nothing to hide," he says. (Well, sort of: during Jimmy's recent deposition, opposing counsel brought up his minor offense of marijuana possession last Halloween, and he reportedly said, "You're not gonna tell my dad, are you?")
The subpoena for Winkelmann Sr. lists
several topics to be covered, all of them involving South Butt, in
which he states he's played the role of business manager and sounding
board ever since Jimmy began classes at Mizzou.
"Jimmy is the
ultimate entrepreneur," he says. "He's got all these ideas, and he's got
everybody else doing his work."
businesses include Blue Ocean ATM
and Blue Ocean Portfolios, but you may remember him best from Huntleigh
Securities and HFI Securities. There, he was the partner of Don C.
, who's now in prison for stealing $12 million in
precious-metal coin investments from dozens of clients (read our feature
on in Friday's questioning, North Face lawyers from Byran Cave tried to
broach the subject of a lawsuit in which Winkelmann and Weir's
companies got sued by a landlord for not paying rent at 8000 Maryland in Clayton, formerly their headquarters. They conceded this case, and later the landlord sued them again,
successfully, for fraudulently transferring assets to avoid having to
When all of this came up on Friday, Winkelmann told the
lawyers that their firm must already have those details, because Bryan
Cave represented him in the initial lease. Not only that, he said,
they'd represented him, his family and at least six of his businesses in
at least 15 matters over the course of eight years. Then things got
Here's an excerpt from the deposition transcript (Q =
North Face lawyer, A = Winkelmann):
please get control of yourself.
A: No. I am out of control.
Watkins: Why don't we take a break for a second. I want to talk to
-- I need to find something out.
A: This is really
outrageous. It really is outrageous.
Q: No, it is not, sir.
We paid your firm over a half a million dollars, sir, and you're taking
that information to prosecute my son.
Q:...I am not using
any information that was obtained in prior representation.
am I supposed to know that?
Q: Cause I just told you
You're asking me questions about a dispute. This is really outrageous.
What kind of -- all the whole --
Mr. Watkins: Mr. Winkelmann
A: Look, you don't represent me either. [Watkins was
representing South Butt, not Winkelmann personally]
Hang on a second. It might be worthwhile for us to take a short break
here so I can find out a little bit of information.
fine. Cause I do think you need to get control of yourself.
Oh, you get control of yourself, David [Roodman].
Q: I have
control of myself.
A: No. Your law firm is out of control,
because, obviously, we can't trust you after representing--
Sir I am asking you questions...I'm using only publicly available
information. I'm asking you questions about your businesses.
You already have the answers to these.
Q: No, I don't.
You represented Huntleigh Financial Services.
Q: I don't --
Did Bryan Cave represent --
Q: I have - I have no idea.
Oh, come on.
Q: Sir, we have 1200 lawyers. I don't know who
A: You know what --
Mr. Winkelmann -- Mr. Winkelmann would you join me please for a break?
minutes later, David
of Bryan Cave reiterated that his only knowledge of
Winkelmann and legal issues involving him came from public info. "If you
want to question that, Mr. Watkins, bring it on," he said. "But there's
absolutely no impropriety whatsoever."
(Click for Part
of the deposition transcript.)
The next day, Winkelmann
sent a letter to Bryan Cave demanding it surrender any information it
has accumulated on him over the years through representation. He also
claims that the other firm hired by North Face, Greenberg Traurig
been "infected" by what he calls a conflict of interest.
depositions are scheduled for today and tomorrow. EPILOGUE
The Stalking Thing
As Winkelmann tells it, he was filling one of
his ATMs in Clayton on Friday when he spotted one of North Face's out-of-state
attorneys, Barbara Kaplan, at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel. On Saturday, he
hand-delivered a letter, almost identical in tone and substance to his
other letters, to the hotel's concierge to pass along to Kaplan.
Watkins got a call from a representative of Bryan Cave, who voiced
concerns that Winkelmann was stalking the attorney. Winkelmann denies
Plenty of updates, on all of these matters, to come.