December 16, 2011
Two prominent franchise owners of Triton Stone Group allege they were fraudulently induced into buying unprofitable, debt-ridden franchises, then were bullied by the franchisor to take on unsurmountable debt.
The franchisor calls the claims “outrageous, ridiculous” and others claim the franchisees are the ones who are unreputable and dishonest.
Who’s lying? Share your opinion below.
Did Triton Stone “Cook the Books”?
According to a story by David Wren of The Sun News, two prominent South Carolina franchise owners claim they were cheated out of millions of dollars by national granite and stone franchisor Triton Stone.
Carroll “Tumpy” Campbell III (son of former S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr.) and John Cattano (former treasurer of the S.C. Republican Party) are accusing the Triton Stone Group officials of “extortion, fraud and ‘strong-arm tactics’”
The franchisees claim that the Triton Stone owners lied about the financial standing of two existing franchises that they sold them in Myrtle Beach and Charlotte, N.C. last year.
According to The Sun News:
The Triton Stone owners… forced Campbell and Cattano to pay millions more in debt that the two franchises had incurred before the sale took place, even though Campbell and Cattano were not obligated to take on any of the franchises’ prior liabilities, according to the lawsuit filed on Nov. 21 in circuit court in Conway.
Triton Stone “aggressively cooked the books” before the sale, the lawsuit states, then “exploited their newfound business leverage over the purchasers [Campbell and Cattano] to force, or try to force, the purchasers to pay millions of dollars in debts the purchasers did not owe.”
Among the allegations against Triton Stone Group:
“During the negotiations, the three Triton Stone representatives presented Campbell and Cattano with financial documents that appeared to show the Myrtle Beach and Charlotte locations ‘were a healthy, profitable business operation,’ according to the lawsuit.
“Campbell and Cattano agreed to purchase the franchises’ assets for $3 million – slightly less than what the financial documents indicated the assets were worth…
“Campbell and Cattano learned that Kessler had written about $600,000 in checks just days before the sale was completed…
“Vendors began depositing the checks written by Kessler on the now-empty [old] account, and the checks began bouncing,” the lawsuit states….
“When Campbell and Cattano confronted Kessler about the checks, Kessler told the two men that they now had to pay the bills or he would put them out of business, according to the lawsuit.
“By late July, Campbell and Cattano said, the forced debt payments were taking a serious toll on their ability to continue to do business. When they missed some of the payments Kessler and others told them to make, the lawsuit states, Triton Stone took control of a shipment of stone that was supposed to go to the Charlotte franchise and kept it sequestered at its Port of New Orleans entry point.
“Campbell and Cattano said they learned the annual profit for the two franchises was about $350,000 per year – less than half the amount Kessler and the others had claimed on financial documents.
“Finally, in late October and into November, the Myrtle Beach and Charlotte franchises could no longer pay its operating costs, debt service and the past-due bills…
“Campbell… and Cattano estimate they were stuck with about $4.4 million in old debt that they should not have had to pay in addition to overpaying for the two franchises by $1.7 million.
“Campbell and Cattano are alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, civil conspiracy and unfair trade practices against the Triton Stone defendants. The two men are seeking at least $10 million in actual and triple damages plus unspecified punitive damages. They also want a judge to declare that all the old debt they were saddled with belongs to the previous owners…
Or are the Triton Stone Franchisees’ Claims “Outrageous” & “Ridiculous”?
Triton Stone Group vehemently denies the allegations. According to the Sun News:
Joshua Kessler, the managing director of Triton Stone Group, called the accusations “outrageous, ridiculous and unbacked” and said Triton Stone intends to file a countersuit.
“We operate with integrity and we are well respected, unlike some of the plaintiffs,” Kessler said, adding that Campbell and Cattano had “full access to our records, employees, our inventory and software. They did a private audit and they had numerous lenders do physical audits, so I was really floored to see these allegations in this lawsuit.”
Commenters on the original story question the integrity, honesty & motives of Carroll “Tumpy” Campbell III, John Cattano and their attorney.
Nick Borg wrote:
I have worked for Triton Stone and the brand owners for more than 9 years. I worked for both Mr. Kessler and then Mr. Campbell & Mr. Cattano after the sale. I was the General Manager of the store under both ownership groups and can tell you with certainty where the fraud lies. I left the company because I was frequently asked by Cattano to move inventory between stores (without a physical item moving between locations) so that he could borrow more from his lendors. Also redating invoice to make them seem more current to borrow off of them as well. Sounds like cooking the books, and fraud to me, but not on the part of Mr. Kessler, or Mr. Mathis… that was the John and Tumpy show.
Maybe a publicity stunt as everyone I spoke to including Triton stone says they never got served. David Wren you should check on the Lawyer that filed the complaint seems to be a local Todd Kincannon and this according to an attorney I spoke with it seems this is a common practice for this amateur.
I do not agree with this article AT ALL and I have done business with Triton Stone and Josh Kessler for many years!! They… have been so nice to work with it is a shame these guys are messing with the name of such nice company I feel bad for all the good people with in the Triton stone organization and I also agree that John Cattano and Tumpy or Carroll Cambel has given us a lot of lies.
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH TRITON STONE GROUP & THE TRITON STONE FRANCHISE? WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.
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