Menard lawyers question Trump's value as spokeswoman

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Attorneys for John Menard questioned the value of Melania Trump as a celebrity spokeswoman during an ongoing trial over a skincare marketing deal gone sour.

The trial, playing out this week before US. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, stems from a licensing agreement signed by Trump, a former model and wife of Donald Trump, with New Sunshine LLC, an Indianapolis-based maker of tanning and skin care products.

An expert witness for Menard on Tuesday afternoon said one glaring problem with the deal was that it only allowed New Sunshine to use the name Melania, not her more recognizable last name.

New Sunshine is one of several companies owned by MH Private Equity, an investment fund formed by Menard, the founder of the Menard Inc. chain of hardware stores, and Indianapolis businessman Steve Hilbert.

The two men had been longtime friends but had a falling out in 2011 that ultimately led Menard to sue for a court order removing Hilbert as the manager of MH Private Equity and the companies that the $495 million fund had purchased.

After a judge in Wisconsin ousted Hilbert in February, Menard moved swiftly to fire the exectives Hilbert had hired at New Sunshine and to renegotiate nearly all the contracts New Sunshine had signed with outside parties. But Melania Trump refused to renegotiate, and instead filed an arbitration claim seeking $50 million in damages.

That dispute has since been moved to federal court, where New Sunshine, now in Menard's control, is arguing that the deal the company struck with Trump was so one-sided in her favor—and also included giveaways to Hilbert and his family—that it is no longer valid.

To buttress that argument, Menard's attorneys on called marketing expert Erik Rosenstrauch, CEO of Florida-based marketing firm FUEL Partnerships. He summarized an analysis he conducted of the deal that New Sunshine signed with Trump. His analysis highlighted many unusual provisions, not least the clause that entitles Hilbert and his family to $50,000 worth of the Trump skin care products each year.

Also, Rosenstrauch's analysis questioned why the licensing agreement did not allow New Sunshine to use the Trump name, only the name Melania. That would have been problematic because Melania Trump, individually, has a small stature as a celebrity. For example, she does not even have a Q score, which is a standard metric used in the marketing and media industry to measure the value of brands and celebrities.

"It is atypical to provide that the celebrity/licensee's last name not be used, particularly where the licensee is not generally known by just her first name," stated Menard attorneys Kevin Tyra and Jerry Padgett, in documents filed before the trial. They also noted that the Trumps are friends with Steve Hilbert and his wife Tomisue. For example, the Trumps purchased the Hilberts' vacation home in St. Martin earlier this year.

But Eric Weber, who was president of New Sunshine before Hilbert's ouster, testified Wednesday morning that consultants hired by New Sunshine had a series of conversations with retailers that might purchase a skin care line with Melania Trump's name on it, and received good feedback. New Sunshine also hired a consultant with expertise in selling products on the television station QVC, where Melania Trump had already marketed a jewelry line. That consultant also approved of using Trump as a spokeswoman.

That feedback, as well as New Sunshine's analysis of sales of other high-end skin care products, led Weber to predict the new product could achieve first-year sales of more than $1 million. And because of those estimates, Weber said, he felt the deal's upfront payments to Trump of $1 million were a good deal for New Sunshine.

"You can look at a marketplace, and if other competitors are in that marketplace, you can assume that there is demand," Weber said.

After Weber was fired by Menard representatives on March 1, New Sunshine decided not to pay $750,000 in upfront royalty payments to Trump that were called for in the licensing agreement. That decision sparked the litigation that has led to the trial this week.


  • Trump
    I personally would be more likely to purchase the product if I only knew her first name...

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

  2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

  3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

  4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

  5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!