Miguel Cabrera during a Major League Baseball game on June 20, 2011, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Photo by Photo Works/Shutterstock.
Ex-business partners of Major League Baseball player Miguel Cabrera have taken a swing at the Detroit Tigers star, claiming he and his business associates pushed them out of Florida snack manufacturing company Total Food Distributors Inc., known as Miggy Foods.
In a third-party complaint filed Thursday, husband-and-wife former minority shareholders of Miggy Foods, Daniel Satine and Yajaira Gonzalez, claim they were strong-armed into making Cabrera majority owner, then wrongfully fired from the company that makes children's snacks called BitBits.
Cabrera, nicknamed "Miggy," is the first baseman for the Detroit Tigers. Cabrera is an 11-time MLB All-Star, batting champion and two-time Most Valuable Player.
The claims against him stem from a derailed business partnership. In the underlying lawsuit, Cabrera's company filed suit against several fired minority shareholders in the snack business, accusing them of financial mismanagement. But now, Satine and Gonzalez have fired back with counterclaims of their own.
Miggy Foods had swung first, suing Satine and Gonzalez in July 2018 over claims they made self-serving decisions and treated the company as "their own personal piggy bank." According to the complaint, the defendants created "opulent" offices decorated with high-quality furniture and equipment, and had Miggy Foods lease a building at $5,100 per month for no good reason.
Counsel to Miggy Foods, Christopher J. Perez-Gurri and Alan G. Geffin, were not available for comment before deadline. But their filings accused Satine and Gonzalez of being liberal with company credit cards, committing to expensive sponsorship deals with the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Tigers, and paying themselves "excessive" $319,000 salaries.
Miggy Foods claimed it lost about $2.1 million. Its suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, conversion and deceptive and unfair trade practices, allegations Satine and Gonzalez deny.
Satine and Gonzalez were tasked with marketing and growing the business, according to their lawyers, Marta Colomar-Garcia, Roland Potts and Karel Suarez of Diaz, Reuz & Targ in Miami, who said majority owner Cabrera and his wife held the purse strings. The way Colomar-Garcia tells it, the Cabreras starved the company of money, left invoices unpaid and skipped important events.
"The lawsuit was basically an excuse from Total Foods Distributors to continue using their strong-arm tactics that they have always been using against our client, just because they don’t want them in the company anymore," Colomar-Garcia said.
The defendants have responded with 20 allegations against Miggy Foods, Cabrera, his wife, brother-in-law and business associates. Among them: deceptive and unfair trade practices, fraudulent inducement, breach of oral contract, unjust enrichment and tortious interference.
Satine and Gonzalez moved to the U.S. from Venezuela, where they had their own candy and cereal company. Their answer to the complaint alleges Cabrera fell "in love with" their business and induced them create a U.S. version with him as the face of the product, originally agreeing to 10% ownership.
The third-party complaint alleges that Cabrera's stake kept rising until he and his wife, through their company 2C&P LLC, owned 60% and fired Satine and Gonzalez via email. The termination letters attached to the third-party complaint don't specify why Miggy Foods let them go, though the company filed suit soon after.
Co-counsel Potts alleges that this was a scheme by Cabrera to use Satine and Gonzalez, and benefit from their know-how and industry connections.
"Our clients initially had a successful confectionery business and they took that model, even going to the extent of using the same formula and recipe for some of their products, and they basically transplanted that idea into the United States, with what was supposed to be the financial backing and support of Miguel Cabrera," Potts said.
The third-party plaintiffs also included text messages from Cabrera to Satine, alleging company communications broke down as the star became depressed when his marriage fell apart, thanks to child support claims from an alleged mistress.
Miggy Foods seeks damages, lost profits, interest, attorney fees and costs, as does its former minority shareholders. Discovery is underway.