IBJNews

Menard fires back in court fight with Hilberts

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Tomisue Hilbert made “spurious” claims that John Menard tried to extort sex from her as a strategy to help her and her husband get a leg up in a business dispute.

That’s the argument that Menard, CEO of hardware store chain Menard Inc., made in an Aug. 27 document filed in answer to a lawsuit filed by Tomisue Hilbert in Hamilton Superior Court.

John Menard Menard

Hilbert’s lawsuit, filed May 29, alleged that Menard pressured her to have sex and, because she refused, he launched a series of legal actions against the company she and her husband, Steve Hilbert, own and manage.

But Menard, 73, has now countersued Tomisue Hilbert for “abuse of process,” saying she filed her lawsuit only after companies controlled by Menard removed the Hilberts as managers of a private equity firm and sued to recover millions of dollars in fees paid to the Hilberts.

“This lawsuit was designed to punish Defendant John Menard Jr. with false and defamatory allegations calculated to inflict maximum personal embarrassment on the Menard family,” wrote Jerry Padgett, an attorney for Menard, in a motion to dismiss the case. He also claimed Hilbert’s lawsuit is designed to “achieve some perceived advantage or leverage” in other cases pending between Menard and the Hilberts.

Tomisue Hilbert, 43, claimed that, during a May 2011 stay at the Hilberts’ home on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, John Menard touched her inappropriately several times and asked her to have a threesome with his wife, Fay.

Menard threatened then and in later conversations that, if Tomisue Hilbert did not have sex with him, there would be “financial consequences,” according to Hilbert’s lawsuit. And now he is simply “bullying” the Hilberts and their friends with a series of lawsuits, said Tomisue Hilbert’s attorney, Linda Pence.

“Menard uses litigation as a tactic to destroy people,” Pence said.

The litigation started in November when Merchant Capital LLC filed suit in Wisconsin against Steve Hilbert. Merchant Capital is the entity created by John Menard to invest in a private equity firm called MH Private Equity.

MH Private Equity was formed in 2005 by the Hilberts and Menard to acquire and invest in businesses. Menard supplied the money and Steve Hilbert the management. Menard owned 80 percent of the firm and the Hilberts owned the other 20 percent.

But after spending $495 million, the companies MH Equity purchased declined in value 70 percent, according to Menard. In addition, Menard and Merchant Capital claim that Steve Hilbert engaged in fraud during the formation of MH Private Equity and in taking nearly $35 million in management fees.

For all those reasons, Menard and Merchant Capital sued in November 2012 to remove Steve and Tomisue Hilbert’s company as the manager of MH Private Equity.

Steve Hilbert, 67, fought back, claiming the companies owned by MH Private Equity were worth far more than Menard claimed and that Merchant Capital had failed to pay all the management fees it had agreed to under contract.

But a judge in Menard’s hometown of Eau Claire, Wis., sided with Menard in February, issuing a temporary injunction against Hilbert. That allowed Merchant Capital to take control of the companies MH Private Equity had purchased, including Indianapolis-based New Sunshine LLC, a suntan lotion firm.

Since taking over in March, Merchant Capital has fired several executives at New Sunshine and filed lawsuits against some of the Hilberts’ friends.

In June, Steve and Tomisue Hilbert’s company, which is called MH Equity Managing Member LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, claiming $10 million in assets and $1.5 million in liabilities.

That move stayed litigation in Wisconsin, where Menard’s attorneys were seeking repayment of $3.7 million in fees the Hilberts were paid last year.

Menard’s attorneys are now seeking to get the bankruptcy case dismissed, arguing that the Hilberts are “forum shopping.”

Before their recent falling out, the Hilberts and Menard had been good friends for two decades, beginning when Steve Hilbert was CEO of Carmel-based insurance giant Conseco Inc. Menard’s filing, however, claims that as far back as 2003, the Hilberts’ interactions with Menard were business “under the guise of socializing.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

ADVERTISEMENT