The founders of burger chain Grill’d are currently in the Federal Court, where they are fighting for future ownership of the $300 million business, and by all accounts, the falling-out between the pair has been pretty ugly.
Geoff Bainbridge and Simon Crowe opened the first Grill’d in 2004, alongside their friend Simon McNamara, and the business has since grown to 140 stores around Australia, 80 of them directly owned by the company.
The pair bought McNamara out of the business in 2011, but have since turned on each-other, with Bainbridge claiming that Crowe breached his duties as a company director with improper use of staff and resources.
In turn, Crowe is seeking an order that would force Bainbridge to sell his stake in the company, saying that the pair’s relationship is damaged to the point where it will be impossible for them to work together again.
Per reports in Fairfax, Bainbridge was being questioned under oath by Crowe’s barrister Philip Crutchfield QC when the c-bombs began dropping in court.
“I apologise to everyone, I will spell it – that you called him a c-u-n-t. What do you say? That is, you called [my client] a c-u-n-t?” Crutchfield asked.
“I have in the past,” Bainbridge replied. Justice John Middleton then chimed in to ask Bainbridge if he had, in fact, used the c-word in relation to his business partner. “I have, yes,” Bainbridge replied.
Crowe likewise gave testimony about his strained relationship with former friend Bainbridge, saying:
“Your honour, I have gone through this journey now since, effectively, January 2015 and Geoff has consistently misrepresented his position … He has lied through the court process. He is somebody I cannot trust and who I detest. I struggle to be in the same room with him. There’s other people in my business who are senior who know how I feel about him and many of them share the same feelings.”
On the opening day of the case, Justice Middleton expressed surprise that “commercial people” such as Crowe and Bainbridge would find it impossible to overcome their differences and work together.
Crowe’s legal team have reportedly made an offer to Bainbridge that would allow him to remain a director of the company, and there is a chance the pair may settle the matter between themselves over the weekend.
If not, the case will return to the Federal Court early next week.