Florida's feuding citrus cousins, JD Alexander and Baxter Troutman, reached a settlement over the weekend over the failed merger of two family-owned companies.
Troutman, a former state representative from Winter Haven, filed the suit in 2008 against Alexander, a Lake Wales state senator, and his father, when Troutman was still in the legislature. Troutman, a shareholder of Alico, alleged on behalf of other shareholders that the Alexander family orchestrated the merger between Atlantic Blue Group and Alico to their benefit.
On Saturday, two days before a hearing was scheduled in Polk County circuit court, both sides agreed to the settlement. The three-page accord ends the lawsuit, allows both parties to walk away from the dispute owing nothing to each other, and opens the door for Alexander to seek attorneys fees and expenses. Download Scanned document_04_02_2012_08_16_58_696
"After several years of litigation and many days in deposition with multiple witnesses, JD Alexander is vindicated in the position that he took throughout this case, that Troutman’s lawsuit was a frivolous suit,'' said Alexander's attorney,
David King in a statement. "Faced with having to prove the baseless allegations in the complaint, Mr. Troutman capitulated. He gave up, took nothing, and dropped the case.”
Troutman said discussions about the settlement began in August and he agreed because he achieved his goal: the resignation of Alexander as president and CEO of Alico effective Saturday.
"There were two overriding issues: what were the best interests of the shareholders of Alico for this to come in for a landing and, secondly, my commitment to my family that once JD had resigned as CEO, the lawsuit would go away. He has resigned."
Reached late Monday, Alexander however, adamantly denied that he had resigned. "I am CEO and president of the company,'' he said. "I did not resign effective Saturday."
He said the settlement vindicates his family and allows for his family to collect an estimated $2 million in legal costs defending the case. "We paid Mr. Troutman nothing, gave him nothing; we were completely not guilty of his allegations,'' Alexander said.
Troutman's response: "If they want to come after me for attorneys fees bring it on,'' he said. "But case law suggests they don’t have a legal leg to stand on.''