Former partner of Alton fitness center sues over loss of interest

By Kelly Holleran | May 6, 2013

A former minority member of an exercise company claims his superiors wrongly accused him of criminal activity, then proceeded to illegally take his interest in the company.

A former minority member of an exercise company claims his superiors wrongly accused him of criminal activity, then proceeded to illegally take his interest in the company.

Steven W. Friederich filed a lawsuit April 26 in Madison County Circuit Court against Vern Vanhoy, Lauren Vanhoy, Athletes in Action doing business as Nautilus and Athletes in Action Building.

The defendant is not affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., which has a division called “Athletes in Action," according to a spokesperson for Campus Crusade for Christ.

In his complaint, Friederich alleges he was a minority member of the business while the Vanhoys were majority members of the company. However, the Vanhoys allegedly began hiding accounting statements from Friederich and have accused him of engaging in unspecified illegal actions. They have also allegedly attempted to steal Friederich’s interest in the company, according to the complaint.

Friederich insists that the Vanhoys have made unfounded and untrue accusations that he was engaging in criminal activities and that he had a gambling addiction. In turn, they have wrongly attempted to take his majority interest in the company, the suit states.

In fact, Friederich says the Vanhoys are improperly disbursing money within the company and inappropriately managing the company.

“The self-serving, unlawful and improper conduct engaged in by the majority members and engaged in by the managing member include, but are not limited to, failing to properly provide notice to all members of meetings of the LLCs, failure to properly conduct meetings of the members of the LLCs, diversion of the LLCs’ assets to the individual benefit of the managing member and his family, and conversion and/or attempted conversion of plaintiff’s interests in the LLCs to majority members,” the complaint says.

“Vern Vanhoy hired and employed family members and compensated family members at a level of compensation greater than the compensation paid to other individuals who were not family members but who provided the same or more valuable services to the LLCs.”

The Vanhoys have been attempting to convert Friederich’s portion of the company to themselves since October 2010, but reversed course in December 2010, he claims.

At some point between then and April 2012, however, the Vanhoys succeeded in taking Friederich’s interest in the company, which is illegal, according to the complaint.

After Frederich learned of his loss of interest in the company from his tax preparer, he demanded his ownership interest be returned, the suit states. Still, the Vanhoys refuse to comply with his request.

Now, he says the Vanhoys are breaching their fiduciary duty to him.

In his complaint, Friederich is asking the court to order the Vanhoys to provide him with a complete accounting of all of Athletes in Action’s assets and liabilities from 2005 through the present. He is also seeking an order that a natural receiver be appointed and an order that the assets of the LLCs be distributed in a fashion the court deems just.

Friederich seeks the full value of the property taken by defendants, an order that the defendants return the property to him, an order to prevent the defendants from taking or asserting control over his property in the future and significant punitive damages, plus additional relief the court deems just.

Lee W. Barron of Alton will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-647.

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