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Menard's fight with Hilberts to surface in trial with Trump

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A skirmish in the ongoing legal war between hardware store magnate John Menard and former business partner Stephen Hilbert will surface in open court on Tuesday, as a trial begins between one of Menard's companies and former model Melania Trump.

The federal bench trial in Indianapolis is expected to last three days, and include testimony from Trump, the wife of real estate investor Donald Trump.

Hilbert, the former CEO of Carmel-based Conseco Inc. and longtime friend of Menard, was CEO of a private equity firm founded in 2005 that was funded by Menard. Its holdings included New Sunshine LLC, a skin-care products company.

Menard’s lawsuit alleges that he sent a letter to Hilbert in June 2012 removing him as CEO, but that Hilbert refused to leave and continued to make unauthorized business decisions for New Sunshine. Big moves by New Sunshine during that period included a five-year licensing deal for products developed by Melania Trump.

In February, Menard won a court battle with Hilbert that allowed him to regain control of New Sunshine. Soon thereafter, New Sunshine sent a letter to Trump canceling a promotional deal for the launch of her skin-care products. Trump filed a lawsuit with an arbitrator, claiming New Sunshine’s actions had resulted in $50 million in damages.

Melania Trump had been scheduled to promote the product line on an April 7 appearance on Donald Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice,” as well as on “The Today Show” and “The View” in the following days. The canceled contract meant she did not have any product samples to help her promotion, her lawsuit stated.

But Menard claims that because New Sunshine entered into the contract with Melania Trump’s company, Melania Marks Skincare LLC, while Stephen Hilbert still managed New Sunshine, the contract was void.

In a brief filed with the court, Melania Trump’s firm counters that the agreement was valid because New Sunshine’s president at the time, Eric Weber, had the authority to sign the agreement.

Menard, Hilbert, and Hilbert’s wife, Tomisue, are entangled on other legal fronts. IBJ broke the story in March that the billionaire hardware king had ousted Steve Hilbert as CEO of his private equity fund.

The Hilberts fired back in June with a lawsuit alleging Menard ditched Steve Hilbert as retribution after Tomisue spurned his repeated sexual advances. The suit said Menard told Tomisue that “no one tells me no” and that if he “did not get sexually what I want, there will be financial consequences.”

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

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  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

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