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Call it the battle of Palm Breach!
A legal war over the Palm Beach, Fla., outpost of swanky Upper East Side eatery La Goulue is boiling over.
The restaurant’s owner, Jean Denoyer, has filed a counterclaim against an investor who he paints in legal papers as a savvy banker who schemed to seize control and push him out.
We previously reported that investor C. Edward Carter sued Denoyer last month in Palm Beach Circuit Court.
Carter alleged in his own spicy court documents that Denoyer “fraudulently” induced him into investing $450,000 into the restaurant. He further claimed Denoyer did not disclose debts the eatery owed, that the storied restauranteur had “childlike public temper tantrums” and made “snap horrible decisions” and that Denoyer “alienated” employees and cost the restaurant money with his “insatiable ego.”
Carter’s suit claimed that Denoyer “would show up at La Goulue almost every night at prime dinner hour during ‘season,’ take the best table for himself and treat whomever he would want to dinner … without regard for cost by ordering large and expensive amounts of food and wine and in a loud public display ‘hold Court.’”
But Denoyer denies Carter’s claims in his response to the suit — and also fires back in his own counterclaim filed last week that it’s a case of the “pot calling the kettle black.”
Denoyer’s court documents allege that it was Carter who hatched a “fraudulent and cynical scheme … to seize control of La Goulue and drive its founder, Denoyer, out of a business that he has built over the past 50 years.”
The court papers claim Denoyer sunk $3.7 million on his own into a Palm Beach location of his Manhattan restaurant — but that the project was sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s when, the countersuit claims, “in June 2020, Carter, a successful and sophisticated investment banker, sought to take advantage of the situation and obtain a stake in, and significant control over, the La Goulue brand” and that he “did so through flattery, guile and deception.”
Denoyer claims Carter “repeatedly — and falsely — promised that his sole interest was to provide the financial resources” to fulfill Denoyer’s vision for the business, but that he really “intended to use his investment to gain control of La Goulue and the La Goulue brand, implement his own vision, dilute Denoyer and the other investors, and squeeze Denoyer out.”
Denoyer alleges it was Carter who was “abusive and aggressive towards staff and customers,” citing a supposed text in which he warned Denoyer: “Your f–k head [manager] just took my seat from me at the bar. I told him I would see him in his next life … I will not return to La Goulue. Good luck!”
Denoyer claims, “Thereafter, Carter took numerous unilateral and unauthorized actions to exclude Denoyer from the business, and then verbally attacked Denoyer when he challenged those actions.”
He is countersuing for negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and corporate waste.
Denoyer is being repped in the case by attorney Jonathan Minsker, who told Page Six in a statement: “Mr. Carter is a small minority investor who is attempting to seize control of La Goulue in Palm Beach and exclude Mr. Denoyer from the business he built over the past 50 years. Mr. Carter apparently believes he can intimidate Mr. Denoyer — who has an impeccable reputation — by falsely accusing him of fraud. But Mr. Denoyer will not be bullied. He will fight to protect his good name and the La Goulue brand.”
Carter’s attorney, Charles H. Lichtman, said when we reached out about the counterclaim, “We laughed when we read it. The claims are humorous, absurd and don’t even make sense, but I guess that’s litigation. We know our facts are accurate and our claims are well-founded, so we very much look forward to our day in court.”
The Florida branch of La Goulue has served diners including Sylvester Stallone, Dr. Oz, Sharon Bush, Danny Meyer and photographer Patrick McMullan, among others.
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