WILMINGTON, Del. - AmeriServe Food Distribution Inc., a major supplier for U.S. fast-food restaurants that is under U.S. Bankruptcy Court supervision, accused Chairman and former Chief Executive Officer John Holten of wrongly diverting at least $13 million into companies he controls.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, privately held AmeriServe contended that Holten withdrew $13 million from the Addison, Texas-based company's accounts a month before its Chapter 11 papers were filed in January.
Holten, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., should have known at that time that the company was insolvent, the suit alleges.
While AmeriServe says Holten transferred some of the money to his companies as purported expense reimbursements or management fees, the company contends that it received inadequate benefit in exchange. The suit also suggests that $31 million was diverted by Holten during 1999 with little value to AmeriServe.
The company asked a judge for "an order requiring John Holten and the various entities under his control to immediately return all funds wrongfully diverted from AmeriServe," and to award damages and legal fees.
AmeriServe also sued Holten's companies, including Holberg Inc., Holberg Industries Inc. and NEBCO Evans Distributors Inc. The suit described them as "indirect parents" of AmeriServe.
Money transfers described in the lawsuit were "made with the actual intent to hinder, delay and/or defraud AmeriServe's then existing and future creditors," the suit added.
Holten could not immediately be reached for comment.
In another matter, Bankruptcy Judge Peter Walsh appointed an examiner two months ago in an effort to determine if investment bankers Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. knew AmeriServe was about to lose its largest single customer, Burger King, before selling $200 million in bonds in October.