Mavericks pioneer and big wave legend Jeff Clark recently filed a lawsuit in the San Francisco Superior Court over a dispute with his former business partners involved in the creation and management of the Mavericks Surf Contest. The complaint, filed by Clark's lawyers, names Mavericks Surf Ventures, Evolve Sports Management and Clark's former business associates Keir Beadling, Doug Epstein and Mark Dwight in the matter.
The complaint refers to Clark as a "passionate and respected member of the international surfing community," and the defendants as "a series of corporations and persons with no interest in surfing other than as a source of corporate and personal profit." The basic premise of the lawsuit stems from a 2003 agreement between Clark and Evolve Sports, which created Mavericks Surf Ventures to run and manage the annual Mavericks surf competition. Clark was eventually fired from his position with them in June of 2009.
The complaint outlines a difference in "vision" over the surf contest, with Clark claiming a desire to "maintain the history, traditions and respect for the ocean." It describes a series of agreements that were made prior to the 2009 firing of Clark, including agreements to pay Clark certain sums of money in exchange for the use of his services as contest director. Clark is suing for breach of contract, fraud, right of publicity and fiduciary duty – a fancy way of saying that Mavericks Surf Ventures allegedly failed to pay Clark money they agreed upon, forced him out of the business, improperly capitalized on using his name and stature in the surf community, and prevented him from obtaining jobs elsewhere with these false promises.
"I've waited patiently and remained quiet in an effort to settle our issues in private, without casting a shadow over the contest that I founded. But it's obvious MSV [Mavericks Surf Ventures] has no intention of working this out. They have forced me to file suit in order to move on with my life," explains Clark.
"I've waited patiently and remained quiet in an effort to settle our issues in private, without casting a shadow over the contest that I founded.” – Jeff Clark
Keir Beadling, the CEO of Mavericks Surf Ventures has a different perspective on the matter. Says Beadling: "Our written agreements with Jeff require out-of-court discussions, and so filing suit is premature and inappropriate. Any claims like this are completely baseless...everything we do as a company every single day all show nothing but the respect we have for surfing, for Mavericks, and the gifted athletes who surf there." Regarding the 2009 firing of Clark, Beadling explains that "the company’s reasons for terminating Jeff’s agreements were absolutely justified. Even now he still owns more stock in Mavericks Surf Ventures than anyone. And he held a seat on the Board of Directors--which gave him power and control over the company's activities--until he voluntarily resigned that seat shortly after his termination. Regrettably, this is a situation of Jeff's own doing."
The next step will likely be a period of discovery where documents are passed back and forth between the law firms in an attempt to discern the truth, and determine whether to settle or proceed to a trial.