The glamorous Il Mulino Italian restaurant empire might soon be fegato tritato — or chopped liver, as New Yorkers say.
Il Mulino founder Jerry Katzoff sued his lenders on Friday accusing them of a plot to squeeze him out of the business — the latest legal salvo between the restaurateur and his chain’s chief lender, Benefit Street Partners, which have been duking it out since last spring over a defaulted $35 million loan.
That battle, as The Post has reported, led Katzoff to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy for seven of 16 Il Mulino
locations in late July. The bankruptcy proceeding does not affect Il Mulino’s Big Apple eateries — only its high-profile locations in Las Vegas, Miami and the Hamptons, a favorite of celebs like Jimmy Fallon and Bethenny Frankel.
But the increasingly tense battle for control now clouds the future of the entire restaurant chain, including the West Third Street original where former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton bonded over bruschetta.
Katzoff sued BSP in Manhattan state court for its efforts to enforce a $10 million personal loan guarantee he signed, saying the loan was “fraudulently induced,” according to court papers.
Katzoff is seeking $50 million from BSP for alleged fraud and “tortious interference” in his business relationship with his longtime managing partner Brian Galligan. He claims BSP barred Galligan from his longtime role of managing Il Mulino day-to-day in a twisted effort to lower its value.
The suit also claims that the lenders:
- Installed BSP executive King Jang as Il Mulino’s “director of corporate finance,” a role that saw Jang filling “his gluttonous appetite with free meals and expensive wines at Il Mulino restaurants for himself and others totaling thousands of dollars that he shamelessly directed Katzoff to ‘comp.’ ”
- Tricked Katzoff into believing that BSP would extend the $35 million loan due to the pandemic-driven lockdown before aggressively calling for payments.
Katzoff couldn’t be reached. The lawyer for BSP, Michael Goldstein of Goodwin Proctor, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Steve Cuozzo [NYPost.com]
Steven D. Cuozzo (born January 17, 1950) is an American writer and newspaper editor who writes as a restaurant critic, real estate columnist, and op-ed contributor at the New York Post, a daily newspaper primarily distributed in New York City and its surrounding area. A lifetime resident of New York, Cuozzo spent his career at the Post, working his way up from his entry-level copy boy position in 1972, through positions including copy editor in the newsroom, entertainment editor, assistant managing editor in charge of features, and executive editor. In 1996, he summarized his experiences at the Post in his book, It’s Alive! How America’s Oldest Newspaper Cheated Death and Why It Matters. As of 2013, Cuozzo writes as a restaurant critic, real estate columnist, and op-ed contributor at the New York Post and lives with his wife Jane on the Upper East Side.