Minds+Machines Sues Wolfgang Puck and His Wife for $5 Million Over Failed .food Deal

Photo: oscar.com

Oh this is pretty epic: TLD consulting firm Minds+Machines, Top Level Domain Holdings, and Frederick R Krueger, an investor, are suing Wolfgang Puck and his wife over the failed .food domain deal. We were down on the .food top-level domain from the beginning, calling it "a shameless money grab." But now the deal has completely fallen apart.

The lawsuit is full of accusations: Basically, Wolfgang Puck's wife, Gelila Puck, claimed she had connections and could get meetings with the likes of Jonathan Newhouse with Condé Nast, saying that Anna Wintour was "just an employee," and that she was running around town telling people that she was creating the “new Internet."

The lawsuit claims that the Pucks sent a demand letter saying that they owned 50% of .food, 50% of any TLD business arising out of introductions made by the Pucks, and the right to co-invest in any new TLDs. Of course Mind+Machines said no, but then Gelila Puck became "forceful, abusive, and erratic," calling their employees and demanding they resign. At that point, Wolfgang stopped doing any .food promotion, and thus the $5 million lawsuit.

Read the full PDF of the lawsuit, or follow along in our ADHD edition:

Minds+Machines is already out a lot of money:

Minds+Machines spent over $100,000 promoting .food, paying for "a logo design for <.FOOD>, the production of a 30-minute promotional video, and a launch party for several hundred people during an annual ICANN conference in Sydney, Australia.

Some of which was spent by the Pucks without their permission:

Gelila Puck also spent Minds+Machines’ money without permission, costing it a substantial amount of money. For example, Gelila Puck flew two of Wolfgang Puck’s sous chefs to Sydney to prepare food for the <.FOOD> launch party. Also for the <.FOOD> launch party, Gelila Puck booked the most expensive hotel suite in Sydney when Minds+Machines had already arranged for more reasonable, but still luxurious, venue.

Oh, and the charitable spin was just that, spin. Something smelled fishy about it in the first place, but this is stunning:

During the parties’ negotiations leading up to their agreement to proceed together with <.FOOD>, Fred Krueger recommended that 5% of the profits from the operation of the <.FOOD> top-level domain be allocated to Wolfgang Puck’s favorite charity, Meals on Wheels Association of America. Defendant Wolfgang Puck agreed that some of the profits should be given to charity, but insisted that 5% of profits was too much. Ultimately, the parties agreed to donate only 1% of profits to charity.

And the lawsuit even talks trash about Puck's wife:

Gelila Puck, who has no technical background and met Wolfgang while she was answering phones at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant in Los Angeles, began to tell her acquaintances that she was creating the “new Internet.” She also frequently told friends, acquaintances, and business people that she was the “next Bill Gates.”

And things got worse:

However, Wolfgang Puck’s wife, Gelila Puck, interjected herself into the relationship between Minds+Machines and Wolfgang Puck. Her behavior became forceful, abusive, and erratic, ultimately causing substantial damage to Minds+Machines’ business.

Under the heading "Gelila Puck Unsuccessfully Sought to Become Involved in the Top-Level Domain Business.":

Gelila Puck represented to Plaintiffs that she had many connections she could share with Minds+Machines that would result in additional top-level domain customers for Minds+Machines. None of Gelila Puck’s purported connections resulted in more than an initial introduction...

Gelila Puck attempted to introduce Minds+Machines to Jonathan Newhouse with Condé Nast Publications in connection with <.FASHION>. Minds+Machines had previously formed a relationship with several key figures in the fashion industry, including a potential introduction to Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. At the urging of Gelila Puck, who dismissed Anna Wintour as “just an employee,” and represented she would introduce the parties to a new partner that would enter into an agreement with them, Minds+Machines abandoned its existing relationships and followed up with Mr. Newhouse instead. But in truth, Gelila Puck had no such relationship and no agreement was reached.

And she publicly talked trash about Shaq, Saying that his brand was nothing like Wolfgang Puck's!

Gelila publicly attacked Shaquille O’Neal by claiming that Mr. O’Neal is “not a brand. He may be rich, but he’s not a brand like Wolfgang Puck Worldwide.”

The Pucks also wanted in on the rest of the TLD action — for .restaurant and .wine and beyond. But Minds+Machines declined to enter into a Short-Form Agreement proposed by the Pucks that included some pretty onerous terms, including:

“the Puck Parties own 50% of the .FOOD business”
“the Puck Parties own 50% of any top-level domain business arising of [sic] contacts and introductions provided by the Puck Parties”
“the Puck Parties have the right to co-invest in any top-level-domain business that [Minds+Machines, TLDH, and Krueger] may pursue, except
those financed or announced . . . before May 18, 2009”.

So Gelia Puck becomes hostile and begins "contacting Minds+Machines employees and demanding they resign." In the original agreement, Puck was required to promote the .food application and domain name, including his image and likeness. But after things started getting nasty, Puck stopped doing any promotion and sent a letter revoking the rights to his name:

Wolfgang Puck directed his attorney to send Minds+Machines a letter revoking its permission to use his name, image, likeness, photograph, signature, and voice in connection with the <.FOOD> top-level domain in violation of the parties’ .FOOD Agreement.

So now there's a lawsuit.

[via Domain Name Wire]

—Raphael Brion

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3 Comments

Comment Feed

  1. Is this a virtual law-suit? or a lesson in humility? Hubris may be needed by the offending parties.

  2. Emily

    Love and the internet never mix!

  3. na

    WOW. So typical attacking the woman, bad reporting, very unfair. What a terrible article.

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