“Shark Tank” celebrity investor Daymond John is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against former contestants Al “Bubba” Baker and his daughter, Brittani, as well as his wife, Sabrina.
John sought to enjoin the family from further publicly discussing what they have alleged is their “nightmare” experience in the aftermath of their participation on the ABC reality TV show.
The Bakers were subject of a recent L.A. Times investigation in which they accused John and some of his associates and partners of misleading them, trying to take over their business and depriving them of the profits from potentially lucrative partnerships.
They raised questions about the business deal they entered into with John and Rastelli Foods Group, a meat manufacturer retained to produce their patented Bubba’s Q Boneless Baby Back Ribs after they appeared on Season 5 of “Shark Tank.”
A federal judge in New Jersey dismissed the case this week without prejudice, citing jurisdictional issues. John has since filed an amended complaint that is pending. Rastelli Foods also is seeking a restraining order against the Bakers, alleging they have made “false” and “defamatory statements” against the company.
“After repeated attempts to give the Bakers the ability to correct their violations, it is unfortunate that it has come to this,” Zach Rosenfield, spokesperson for Daymond John, said in a statement. “This temporary restraining order is due to the Bakers’ blatant actions to undermine a business partnership and the legal parameters they agreed to 4 years ago. Their belief that they can unwind poor business decisions through slanderous social media posts and articles will no longer be tolerated.”
The Bakers claimed that following the on-air offer of $300,000 for 30% of the company they agreed to, John later revised the terms of the deal to $100,000 for a 35% stake. They contend that John ignored their complaints about the former “Shark Tank” contestant he enlisted to build their website and whom they claim controlled the business’s bank account. Further, they alleged that their partnership with John and Rastelli Foods was problematic, and that Al Baker was excluded from key business meetings and left in the dark regarding real-time financial information. They say they have received only some 4% of the publicly stated $16 million in revenue from the business.
In his complaint, John refuted many of the Bakers’ claims, saying he played a vital role in helping their boneless rib business, including using his vast network of contacts. He said he was a non-managing partner of the company “without access or control over the company’s books and records,” and that his role and duties “are limited to acting as a “brand ambassador.”
Additionally, John called the Bakers’ actions a “willful and malicious smear campaign” and said they violated a confidentiality provision laid out in the parties’ operating agreement and the terms of arbitration and mediation settlements in 2019.
Further, John said in his complaint that he “is operating at an overall financial loss from his business dealings with Defendants, while Defendants acknowledge they have reaped at least $659,000 in profits alone.”
Three days after the L.A. Times’ story, John posted a three-and-a-half minute video response on Twitter, TikTok and other social media platforms, accusing the Bakers of violating a confidentiality agreement and describing the Times article as a “flawed interview and false narrative.” He told his followers that he was putting out the video because “I always want you to stand up for yourself.” John did not elaborate on his claims.
On May 21, the same day John posted his video response, his lawyers sent the Bakers a cease-and-desist letter informing them that they “were in breach of the Agreements” and demanding they stop “making publicly disparaging or defamatory remarks against Plaintiffs, and further, cease publicly revealing Confidential Information,” according to court filings.
By that point, however, an online war of words had already broken out as the Bakers posted a series of their own videos across multiple social media platforms, reiterating many of the claims they outlined in the L.A. Times. They posted emails and documents related to the venture, as well as a recording of a phone conversation between John and Brittani.
The Bakers “have continued to post outrageous, damaging, and false video content with the goal of inflicting harm on Plaintiffs,” according to John’s complaint.
It appeared to do little to quell the growing backlash as a swell of “Shark Tank” fans replied online, asking John to respond directly to the Bakers’ allegations and raising their doubts.
“All that fast talking, I see nothing but red flags everywhere!” one Twitter follower said.
“I’m not surprised. The name of the show speaks for itself,” said another.
According to his complaint, John claimed that “false and disparaging statements” by the Bakers cost him business opportunities, including an offer to appear at a speaking engagement that was rescinded. He noted that he would typically earn between $50,000 and $75,000 at such events.
The Bakers maintain they have the right to speak publicly about their experiences.
“It is our belief that Rastelli Foods and Daymond John have breached the settlement agreement by excluding Al from participation and collaboration regarding the product,” according to the rejoinder letters the family say they sent to the New Jersey judge. These actions, they said, “are causing us irreparable harm, particularly as the time on our patent is running out.”
They added: “We have reason to suspect fraudulent and illegal activities in the accounting practices between Rastelli Foods and Daymond John. We have reached out to governmental agencies to investigate this matter, as we believe it is in the best interest of the public.”
The letters to the judge further explained that the Bakers’ decision to go public with their story was “driven by the lack of communication” and contact from Rastelli Foods and Daymond John.
“Sharing our experience on social media is an honest and truthful account of our journey,” they wrote. “We firmly believe that the truth is in the best interest of the public.”