The Bagby Restaurant Group is suing its former CEO over claims he stole from the restaurant group, committed fraud, misappropriated company trade secrets, solicited escorts using a work email account and more.
The group, which owns restaurants and wine shops including Bagby Pizza Co., Cunningham’s and Foundry Row Wine & Spirits, filed a lawsuit against Chris Becker and his company, Chris Becker Hospitality Group LLC, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on April 13. Bagby Restaurant Group is suing him, alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of trade secrets, trover and conversion, and breach of implied contract.
Becker denied the charges but declined to comment further.
Becker began working for Bagby Restaurant Group in 2011 and was promoted to CEO in 2014. The lawsuit says the group asked Becker to leave in January 2017, and discovered he had been misappropriating company funds and trade secrets in March.
The lawsuit claims Becker stole cash from the restaurant group, used company money for personal expenses (including legal fees and car expenses) and falsified documents.
The suit further alleges Becker solicited escorts through his work email account, which “gave the false impression that [Bagby Restaurant Group] sanctioned or otherwise tolerated Becker’s involvement in that activity.”
The lawsuit also says he created a competing business, Chris Becker Hospitality Group LLC, and used Bagby Restaurant Group funds, food and drink inventory, and personnel to support it.
According to the suit, Bagby Restaurant Group owner David Smith agreed Becker could consult for a restaurant not owned by Bagby at the Ritz-Carlton Residences.
“As time progressed, and the [Bagby Restaurant Group] restaurants continued to suffer poor performance, [David] Smith told Becker to discontinue the relationship and devote his energies exclusively to improving the operations of [Bagby Restaurant Group],” the suit says. The group was unaware Becker created Chris Becker Hospitality Group, according to the suit.
The suit alleges Becker misappropriated trade secrets, “including but not limited to recipes, design concepts, and plans for existing restaurants, which are not known to the public.”
Bagby Restaurant Group is seeking $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, court costs, and a permanent injunction restraining Becker and his hospitality group from continuing to misappropriate trade secrets.
Francis R. Laws, an attorney with Thomas & Libowitz P.A. representing the Bagby Group, also declined to comment on the case.