Jerry Jeff Walker still has it
A proposal four years ago to build a Billy Bob’s Texas Hotel next to the world’s largest honky-tonk caused a rift among owners who are now feuding over the future of the Stockyards landmark.
Building a hotel just north of the entertainment venue in 2013, an idea supported by Billy Bob’s manager Concho Minick, was not backed by the Hickman family, the major investors in Billy Bob’s and the force behind a $175 million redevelopment in the Stockyards along with the California-based Majestic Realty Group.
“We want to make it perfectly clear that there will not be an approval from the Hickman Group to build a Billy Bob’s Texas Hotel without approval of a deal with Majestic to develop our remaining acreage in the Fort Worth Stockyards,” according to a February 2013 letter from Brad Hickman.
“To the best of our knowledge, we have not been approached by any other developer and engaging other developers in this process would cause substantial delay,” Hickman wrote.
The dispute over the hotel plan, and Billy Bob’s role in the overall reimagination of the Stockyards, were discussed at a court hearing Friday where the nightclub’s minority owners are seeking the appointment of a receiver to help break a deadlock among the owners about how best to operate the 127,000-square-foot bar and concert hall.
The split became public in May when the majority owners tried to oust Minick, who has voiced concerns about the Hickmans’ overall plans for the Stockyards, claiming he had mismanaged the honky-tonk. Minick, who owns a 3 percent interest in Billy Bob’s, and other minority owners also are seeking a temporary injunction to keep Minick at the helm.
But differences between the partners began to emerge years ago as the controversial plans for “the future development of the Fort Worth Stockyards” made it hard for them to work together, court records state. The dispute is pitting old friends and drinking buddies against each other.
Philip Murrin testified that the conflict among the owners began in 2012 after the Hickmans brought in Majestic as part of its redevelopment effort, which apparently clashed with the notion of building a hotel bearing the Billy Bob brand next door.
Philip Murrin testified that the conflict among the owners began in 2012 after the Hickmans brought in Majestic as part of its redevelopment effort, which apparently clashed with the notion of building a hotel bearing the Billy Bob’s brand next door. Murrin has previously stated that Billy Bob’s and the Stockyards are “inextricably linked.”
The Murrin family, which owns about 22 percent of Billy Bob’s Texas, are also major landholders in the Stockyards and have their own projects. Their company, Murrin Brothers 1885, joined Minick in his lawsuit against Billy Bob’s majority owners. The Hickman-led group owns roughly 65 percent.
‘An awesome idea’
Minick said in an interview that the Billy Bob’s Texas Hotel was not his project; it was being pushed by Don Jury, Billy Bob’s chief financial officer and former investor. Still, he supported it and said: “I think it is an awesome idea.”
Friction among the partners over Billy Bob’s and the Stockyards development continued to build, and in 2014 Hickman expressed displeasure that Minick had spoken out at a Fort Worth City Council meeting against the rezoning of the Stockyards for the Hickman/Majestic project.
Murrin testified about a letter Hickman wrote to Minick in August 2014 in which Hickman said he found it “particularly disturbing” that Minick spoke out, considering that “55 % of the owners of Billy Bob’s Texas were in favor of the project moving forward.”
The letter, which criticized other actions taken by Minick as manager, said corrective actions should include an apology letter to the mayor and City Council. It also stated that he should refrain from making comments on “outside issues and their effect on Billy Bob’s Texas” without meeting with the owners. Minick had said in previous court documents that Hickman began “grinding his ax” after he spoke his mind about the Stockyards project.
Hickman said in a brief interview that he was opposed to the Billy Bob’s Texas Hotel because the full plan for the Stockyards was not complete at the time and that he wasn’t prepared to make that decision. His 2013 letter also suggests that the hotel could be approved as part of preliminary plan with Majestic.
The Billy Bob’s Texas Hotel would have been built on Stockyards 2000 property, and was not considered to be a Billy Bob’s project, Hickman said. But Billy Bob’s Texas Investments, the company that owns the entertainment venue, and Stockyards 2000, which is involved in the overall Stockyards development, share many of the same investors.
Hickman otherwise declined to talk about the hotel project.
‘Rehabilitate not liquidate’
During the hearing Friday, attorneys also argued over whether a company agreement approved in January 2011 that requires unanimous approval of major decisions by investors is the controlling document or if it is a certification of formation filed four months later that gives control to a six-member governing board.
William Snyder, one of the attorneys representing Minick and Murrin, on Friday also backed away from the idea that their clients want to sell Billy Bob’s on the auction block if a receiver is unable to clear up differences among the owners on how to best run the nightclub.
The minority owners want to “rehabilitate not liquidate Billy Bob’s Texas,” Snyder said. In court documents the plaintiffs have stated that they “are confident and optimistic that, with the Court’s and receiver’s help, Billy Bob’s can remain a fixture and featured attraction in the Stockyards for years to come.”
But Marshall Searcy, the attorney for the majority owners, scoffed at what he portrayed as the sudden change of heart. In court documents he has described Minick and his backers as a “mercenary minority” that has threatened to liquidate Billy Bob’s by auction. Court documents describe Minick’s lawsuit as a “grim power play.”
“It changes by the hour,” Searcy said. “I have no idea what their motivations are.”
The hearing in state District Judge Michael Wallach’s court will continue Monday morning. Dallas Mavericks President Donnie Nelson, who owns about 10 percent interest in Billy Bob’s, may be called to testify.