Intelligentsia Coffee is Getting Sued by a Former CEO For $15M

November 20, 2015, 10:12 PM UTC
Operations At Intelligentsia Coffee In Chicago
Hot water is poured into a glass of ground Ethiopian coffee during a cupping at the Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea Inc. facility in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, June 10, 2011. Prices for washed arabica coffee from Ethiopia rose by as much as 9.9 percent last week in trading on the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Robert Buono, who served as co-CEO of Intelligentsia Coffee from 2010 to 2014, filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Intelligentsia and two of its co-founders, Doug Zell and Emily Mange.

The lawsuit claims that Zell, Mange, and Intelligentsia violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act and accuses them of breach of contract, the Chicago Tribune reports. Peet’s Coffee & Tea recently purchased a majority stake in the company for a reported $100 million, and Buono claims that, according to his contract, he’s entitled to a $15 million cut.

The lawsuit claims that Zell and Mange promised Buono a share of future profits since they were unable to pay him his worth as a co-CEO at the time of his departure; his contract entitles him to a 15% cut or to be bought out if they sold Intelligentsia.

P. Andrew Fleming, Buono’s attorney, says that the former CEO had a hand in the Peet’s deal by making the company “very attractive to potential acquirers.”

The lawsuit states that when Buono first came on as CEO the company supposedly did not have online wholesale ordering, good sales data, supplier data, 0r marketing plans for different market segments, but it did have underperforming employees. By the time he left in 2014, the company’s profits had increased by 61%.

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