DETROIT -- A long-standing feud between Ford dealer Richard Duncan and his daughter, Gail Duncan, has placed a cloud over Michigan's largest Ford dealership, whose parent company filed for protection from creditors this month.
In a shareholder lawsuit filed in November 2003, Richard Duncan alleges that Gail Duncan and her husband, Shashi TejPaul, have treated Jerome-Duncan Inc., of Sterling Heights, a Detroit suburb, as "their own private fiefdom."
Richard Duncan, 80, bought the dealership in 1956.
In 2004, Jerome Duncan Inc., said it had revenue of $604.2 million. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection here this month.
Richard Duncan, who remains a dealership director and a major shareholder, alleges in the suit that Gail Duncan, who is president of Jerome-Duncan Inc., and TejPaul have pirated assets for personal benefit.
He seeks to remove his daughter and TejPaul of all titles and authority at the company, and to block their access to all assets.
Arnold Schafer, Jerome-Duncan's bankruptcy lawyer, said the dealership was trying to renegotiate a $5.5 million line of credit with Ford Motor Credit just before it filed for bankruptcy protection.
Jerome-Duncan owes Ford Motor Credit about $68 million. Its total assets are $53.2 million, according a motion filed in bankruptcy court.
In the shareholder lawsuit, Gail Duncan said that, "In 1998, Gail Duncan, to her father's extreme displeasure, married Shashi TejPaul. When his daughter dared to bring him into his company's business in June 2001, Richard Duncan was further incensed."
Richard Duncan filed the lawsuit to punish his daughter, according to a brief filed by Gail Duncan in response to her father's lawsuit.
Both Richard Duncan and TejPaul declined to say why the rift exists.
In his lawsuit, Richard Duncan alleges that the company made substantial loans to businesses in which his daughter and TejPaul have an interest, and later wrote off some of that debt.
According to the suit, Gail Duncan appointed TejPaul as a director at a meeting that Richard Duncan did not attend, and Gail Duncan and TejPaul acquired other dealerships without Richard Duncan's knowledge or approval.
"For a family that was so close for so many years, it's just such a sad state that this happens," said Lillian Adams, executive director of the Sterling Heights Area Chamber of Commerce.
"They have been so deeply involved in the community, Dick and Gail people know them so well."