After more than 30 years in business together founding Auburn companies including Electricity Maine and Provider Financial, buying the Bates of Maine textile mill and funding a section of the Auburn Public Library, Emile Clavet and Kevin Dean have apparently decided the gloves are off.
The high-stakes fight between the two former Auburn residents includes charges of lies and distortions, allegations of drug trafficking and claims totaling millions of dollars.
In court papers, Clavet said Dean “cheated” him out of more than $2.7 million.
Dean counterclaimed that Clavet owed him $1.2 million.
From Clavet’s lawyer: “Mr. Dean’s need for cash to fund his marijuana activities appears to have become the motive for him to cheat Mr. Clavet,” according to court records.
And from Dean’s lawyer: “Mr. Clavet has been unjustly enriched by diverting business opportunities,” according to court records.
On Wednesday, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy, presiding over the Business and Consumer Court in Portland, granted Clavet’s request to attach up to $2.9 million of Dean’s assets.
The bitter fallout stems from a Texas marina and boat slips the pair bought together for $2.5 million but that Dean sold solo for $7.9 million last year to a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to 100-plus pages of court and property records published by the Bangor Daily News earlier this week.
In her ruling Wednesday obtained by the Sun Journal, Murphy wrote, “The court reads Mr. Clavet’s affidavit as telling the story of how his business partner of over three decades lied to him (at worst) and withheld crucial information from him (at best).”
Clavet and Dean’s history in L-A goes back decades. When they bought the Bates of Maine textile mill in 1998, they already owned the Ja-Lynne Mobile Home Court in Auburn and a dozen commercial properties around Maine, according to Sun Journal archives.
In 2001, together with their wives, they funded the teen section of the expanded Auburn Public Library. A plaque crediting them hangs there. In 2005, they rolled out the upscale Colonial Ridge condominium development in Auburn.
In 2011, Clavet and Dean founded Electricity Maine with a vow to undercut the state’s standard offer price for electricity, signing up more than 150,000 customers in the first year. The company eventually ran into legal problems when customers claimed they were transferred to higher rates without their permission.
A New Hampshire energy firm successfully sued Clavet, Dean and Electricity Maine two years ago for coaching one of the firm’s employees to gather inside information. A judge awarded Freedom Energy Logistics more than $800,000 in the case.
Among their many holdings, at some point, the pair also bought a marina and boat slips in Port Aransas, Texas, under their companies Blue Water Marina LLC and Covered Marina LLC.
In his affidavit, Dean wrote that the two men began talking in 2015 about selling off their joint companies. Clavet was building a new house in Harpswell and starting to do more projects himself.
In his initial affidavit, Clavet wrote that he’d wanted to sell the Texas marina, but that Dean wanted to keep employing his sister and brother-in-law there and maybe retire to Texas.
They had purchased the properties for $2.5 million. Dean writes about them being less-than-desirable: “Historically, once a potential buyer learned that the marinas were uninsurable, in need of major capital repairs and had limited income, they declined to consummate a purchase.”
In her ruling, Murphy wrote that Dean sent Clavet a text message on Sept. 15, 2016, saying the marina’s financials were “dire,” that lenders were requiring Clavet and his wife to post personal guarantees on its credit lines and Dean suggested he buy out Clavet’s half. They had negotiate his half to be worth just over $1 million.
A day after that text, Dean allegedly had a draft purchase and sale agreement in hand from TCRG Opportunity X for $7.9 million.
The sale closed in February 2017. One of the principals behind TCRG Opportunity X is Bobby Patton, whose business holdings include ownership in the L.A. Dodgers baseball team, according to court records.
Dean says he mentioned to Clavet at the time that someone was potentially interested in the property. Clavet says Dean never mentioned anything. When Clavet learned of the sale after being looped into a lawsuit by the new owner in July 2017, Clavet claims Dean initially told him it sold for $5.9 million.
“After July 2017, our business separation was, in my view, no longer a matter of differing goals, but it was a fundamental issue of trust,” Clavet wrote. “I could no longer trust Kevin … I hired business consultants to work out the details of a business divorce from Kevin and to resolve our dispute over the marina asset sale.
Clavet sued Dean and his wife, Cecile, in November, alleging fraud and negligent misrepresentation, among several things. Dean counter-sued shortly thereafter. The case moved to the Business and Consumer Court this winter.
According to court records, the claims and counterclaims fly from there. Among them:
• Dean says Clavet didn’t help with the sale of Electricity Maine to Spark Energy, leaving Dean to hustle to retain customers. Dean wrote that they would only be paid for the sale “based on the successful renewal of all customers based on a profitable rate.”
• Clavet says Dean “decided to become a marijuana trafficker with (Brian) Bilodeau,” an Auburn man arrested during a massive federal drug raid in February, with whom Dean has several property ties.
• Dean, who now lives in Windham, says Clavet used information from their longtime business broker to buy two trailer parks without him, which Clavet later sold, and cut Dean out of a subdivision deal on land that’s been owned by Clavet’s wife’s family in Harpswell for more than 100 years.
In attaching Dean’s assets worth up to $2.97 million Wednesday, Murphy wrote that the “limited evidence before the court supports a preliminary finding that it is more likely than not that Mr. Clavet will prevail on these counts.”
She denied Dean’s counterrequest to attach Clavet’s assets for $1.2 million.
Reached by phone, Clifford Ruprecht, Clavet’s attorney, declined comment.
Calls to Dean’s attorney, Bernard Kubetz, were not returned. Kubetz told the Bangor Daily News earlier this week that his client “is not a marijuana trafficker.”
According to a case management order filed with the court in February, both sides have until June 1 to designate experts in the case, until Dec. 7 for final pretrial statements and should be ready for trial in January 2019.