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Fort Smith Brokers Spring Chicken Suit on Popeyes OwnersLock Icon

2 min read

A Fort Smith real estate company is suing the former and current owners of a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant in Fayetteville.

Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties, led by Rodney Ghan and Bob Cooper, filed suit in Washington County Circuit Court charging breach of contract after the Popeyes location at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. was sold this past May.

The defendants include former Popeyes franchisee SmitCo Eateries of Fayetteville, led by William Rodney Coats and Brian Smith; former property owner Bob VanStavern of Lebanon, Missouri; former property owners Robbie Marley, Debora Johnson and Elizabeth Ruble of Lebanon; and current property owner HZ Props RE Ltd. of Sugar Land, Texas.

In the complaint filed by Fayetteville attorneys Kyle Unser and Rayburn Green of Kutak Rock LLP, Ghan & Cooper alleges that, as brokers to the commercial property, they were entitled to a percentage of the sale that happened May 15, 2017. Ghan & Cooper, the suit claims, originally brokered a lease in January 2007 between VanStavern and SmitCo, which ran a string of Popeyes restaurants in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri.

The lease called for SmitCo to pay 6 percent of the monthly lease, which started at $2,500 a month for 10 years, to Ghan & Cooper. If the tenant purchased the property from the landlord, it was required to pay 6 percent of the sale price to Ghan & Cooper, the suit says.

On May 4, 2017, SmitCo sent Ghan & Cooper notice that its brokerage services would not be required after May 15 because it was selling its Popeyes ownerships at 10 locations, including the one of MLK. On May 4, CTX 1031 LLC, which is managed by Joshua Hite, bought the Popeye’s property for $550,000; CTX 1031 LLC is also a named defendant in the suit. CTX bought the property as an “exchange accommodation titleholder” for SmitCo, then transferred the property to SmitCo on May 15.

SmitCo then sold the property to HZ Props RE for $2.3 million the same day. HZ is a subsidiary led by Amin Dhanani, the president of Z&H Foods Inc., which runs a national chain of Burger King and Popeyes restaurants.

Ghan & Cooper’s complaint claim they are owed 6 percent of the sales price, which works out to $138,000. It is asking the court to order the tenant and landlord, separately or combined, to pay the $138,000 and any fees.

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