Two businessmen are suing the Wahlberg brothers—including actor (and one-time rapper) Mark Wahlberg—for expanding their burger chain, Wahlburgers, without their consent, a lawsuit filed yesterday in Plymouth County Superior Court alleges.
William Leonard and Edward St. Croix, longtime friends and business partners of the Wahlberg brothers—Mark, Donnie, and Paul—say that despite helping create and launch the now-famous restaurants, they were left out of plans to franchise.
The Wahlbergs have recently expanded into Philadelphia, New York, Las Vegas, and Cleveland, to name just a few cities. Their first Wahlburgers restaurant, which the two businessmen helped open, was in Hingham, Mass., though they soon opened restaurants across the state and the country. The chain even has its own A&E reality TV show, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurants and the brothers.
According to the lawsuit, reported by The Boston Globe, Leonard and St. Croix think the brothers' relationship is "dysfunctional," yet they managed to seize power of the chain and "stole the most valuable franchise opportunities for themselves."
St. Croix alleges Wahlburgers—and even its reality TV show—was his idea, and that he designed the restaurant's interior and menu. Leonard, for his part, was a family friend and minority owner in Wahlburgers. He even became a regular on the show.
But the lawsuit claims that the Wahlbergs soon distanced themselves from St. Croix and Leonard, finally reducing their voting interest to 7.87 percent and 3.37 percent, respectively. By the time the men learned of the Wahlbergs plans to franchise, deals had already been struck, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
A spokesman for the Wahlburgers Corporate Headquarters has issued the following statement regarding what she called a "frivolous and unsubstantiated" lawsuit:
"It's obvious that this lawsuit, with its unbridled litany of false and misleading claims, was concocted to further the plaintiffs' own personal agendas at the expense of the truth, the Wahlberg family and other investors. Family, fairness, and integrity are at the core of the Wahlburgers brand, and we are prepared to protect the values for which we stand."