Lawsuit Alleges Wyoming Whiskey Saddled With Debt, Seeks Buyer
An Illinois man is suing Wyoming Whiskey, Inc., for hiring and then firing, him to be its national sales director without telling him about numerous business problems including millions of dollars of debt, according to court records.
Wyoming Whiskey hired Frank Sacca in 2015 from a high-paying job at a company that owned the Cuervo and Bushmills brands for less pay but with the promise of its own growing bourbon brand, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Illinois and transferred to Wyoming U.S. District Court.
But the majority owners of Wyoming Whiskey -- Brad Mead, brother of Gov. Matt Mead, Brad's wife, Kate, and David DeFazio -- did not tell him that the company "had been suffering from significant management and production problems and liquor licensing issues despite having full knowledge of these facts," according to the lawsuit.
There were other problems, too. "The Company and the Individual Defendants failed to disclose that the Company was saddled with millions of dollars in debt purportedly owed to Brad and Kate Mead."
Sacca originally filed the lawsuit in federal court in Illinois in November, and it was transferred to federal court in Wyoming in February.
He is suing for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, concealment, unjust enrichment and other claims.
Sacca is seeking recovery of economic and non-economic damages including emotional distress, punitive damages, reasonable attorneys fees and other relief.
Wyoming Whiskey has denied nearly all of Sacca's allegations, according to court records.
Attorneys for Sacca and Wyoming Whiskey did not return calls seeking comment.
The company was incorporated in 2006, and filed for a trademark in 2011, according to Wyoming Secretary of State records. It unveiled its first batch in December 2012.
Two-and-a-half years later, Wyoming Whiskey and Sacca negotiated an agreement that dealt with his employment compensation, expense account, compensation owed to him when he left the company, and an equity bonus based on performance that would give him a 6 percent automatically vested ownership share by the end of 2017.
Sacca claimed he met his sales quotas in 2015, as well as in 2016 despite the company's poor operation management and other issues including not letting him increase his sales staff. Likewise delays in launching products such as Private Stock, Outryder and Double Cask prevented him from reaching his goals, according to the lawsuit.
That year, the company began changing terms of sales, travel and entertainment violated the employment agreement.
In late 2016 and early 2017, the defendants agreed to potentially selling the company, but knew they needed to get rid of Sacca by the time they got an offer, or else they would owe him 6 percent of the company stock.
They unsuccessfully tried to pressure Sacca to quit, so Brad Mead sent him a memo that they would change his title, responsibilities and compensation, all of which violated the employment agreement.
In early 2017, the company was shopping for a buyer. A paragraph in the lawsuit was redacted, so it is unknown who the potential buyer was. The Wyoming Secretary of State's Office still lists Wyoming Whiskey
Meanwhile, company officials nearly stopped talking with Sacca until March 21, when they offered him a severance package if he would after his termination help the company with the mediation of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allegation against it by another employee. In exchange, the company would pay him for his stock in the company.
Company officials exchanged emails, and on March 24, 2017, Brad Mead told him he was fired. Because he was not fired for cause, he was entitled to 2 percent of the company stock, according to the lawsuit.
The date was significant because the company officials knew they would be receiving an offer to buy Wyoming Whiskey on March 27, according to the lawsuit. "By terminating Sacca one business day before receiving the officer, the Company and the Individual Defendants were intentionally attempting to prevent Sacca from receiving the core benefit [of] the Agreement, namely 6% of the Company stock...."
Company officials transferred his stock to the children of Brad and Kate Mead.