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Daymond John granted restraining order against ‘Shark Tank’ contestants

Daymond John attends the 26th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 16, 2022, in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images/TNS)

“Shark Tank” celebrity investor Daymond John was issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against former contestants Al “Bubba” Baker and his daughter, Brittani, as well as his wife, Sabrina, following a hearing in federal court in New Jersey.

The order temporarily prohibits the Bakers from further publicly discussing what they have alleged is their “nightmare” experience in the aftermath of their participation on the ABC reality TV show.

“The Defendants’ actions here represent a calculated and deliberate attack on the Plaintiffs’ reputation and goodwill that is unusual in its vehemence and persistence,” wrote Judge Robert Kugler in his order issued Friday.

The order also bars the Bakers from issuing any disparaging statements about Rastelli Foods Group, a meat manufacturer retained to produce the Bakers’ patented Bubba’s Q Boneless Baby Back Ribs and a partner along with the Bakers and John in the ribs venture. The company alleged the Bakers had made false and defamatory statements against it.

Kugler said the Bakers, who chose to represent themselves, had breached a 2019 settlement agreement in which they agreed not disparage John and Rastelli.

The restraining order applies until a hearing on the case is held June 26. The case had previously been postponed after Al Baker was hospitalized due to chest pains.

The legal action came after the Bakers were the subject of a recent L.A. Times investigation in which they accused John and some of his associates and partners of misleading them, trying to take over their business and depriving them of the profits from potentially lucrative partnerships.

They raised questions about the business deal they entered into with John and Rastelli Foods after they appeared on Season 5 of “Shark Tank.”

John and Rastelli Foods had originally filed against the Bakers last month. The court dismissed the cases without prejudice, citing jurisdictional issues. John and Rastelli Foods filed amended complaints.

In his complaint, John refuted many of the Bakers’ claims, describing that he played a key role in helping their business. He said he was a nonmanaging partner of the company with “no access to the company’s bank accounts or credit cards, nor to its books and records” and that his role and duties “are limited to acting as a ‘brand ambassador.'”

In an amended complaint dated June 7, John alleged that Al Baker had charged about $60,480 in unauthorized personal expenses to the company’s credit card since March 2020.

Further, John claimed he was operating “at an overall financial loss” from his dealings with the Bakers, who he alleged received approximately $744,600.

The Bakers declined to comment on the temporary restraining order.

Brittani Baker has denied the allegation about the credit card usage in an email to the L.A. Times, saying that the charges were business expenses and that any personal charges were refunded at the end of each month. “Prior to this no one (Rastellis or Daymond John) has ever said we misused the company credit card,” she said.

“After repeated attempts to give the Bakers the ability to correct their violations, it is unfortunate that it has come to this,” Zach Rosenfield, spokesperson for Daymond John, said in a statement at the time of the initial filing. “This temporary restraining order is due to the Bakers’ blatant actions to undermine a business partnership and the legal parameters they agreed to 4 years ago. Their belief that they can unwind poor business decisions through slanderous social media posts and articles will no longer be tolerated.”

The Bakers claimed that after the on-air offer of $300,000 for 30% of the company they agreed to, John later changed the terms of the deal to $100,000 for a 35% stake. They said that John ignored their complaints about the former “Shark Tank” contestant he enlisted to build their website and whom they said controlled the business’ bank account.

Further, they alleged that their partnership with John and Rastelli Foods was problematic, and that Al Baker was excluded from key business meetings and left in the dark regarding real-time financial information. They say they have received only about 4% of the publicly stated $16 million in revenue from the business.

Just days after the L.A. Times’ story, John posted a three-and-a-half-minute video response on Twitter, TikTok and other social media platforms, accusing the Bakers of violating a confidentiality agreement and calling the L.A. Times article as a “flawed interview and false narrative.”

He told his followers that he was putting out the video because “I always want you to stand up for yourself.” By then, the Bakers had already also shared many of their own videos across multiple social media platforms, repeating many of the claims they outlined in the L.A. Times.

John’s lawyers issued the family a cease-and-desist letter informing them that they “were in breach of the agreements” and demanding they stop “making publicly disparaging or defamatory remarks against Plaintiffs, and further, cease publicly revealing confidential information,” according to court filings.

The Bakers have said that they have the right to speak publicly about their experiences.

After John’s filing, they continued to post videos on social media airing their claims against John and Rastelli Foods.

“It is our belief that Rastelli Foods and Daymond John have breached the settlement agreement by excluding Al from participation and collaboration regarding the product,” according to the rejoinder letters the family sent to the court. These actions, they said, “are causing us irreparable harm, particularly as the time on our patent is running out.”


© 2023 Los Angeles Times

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