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Published 09 August 2012 03:50, Updated 09 August 2012 05:01
Jim Penman has had some severe fallings out with business partners. One of the most bitter was with Paul Carr, the former holder of the Jim’s UK lawnmowing master franchise.
In 2009, Penman terminated Carr’s contract. Penman says Carr was not properly running the business, which had 35 franchisees at the time, and many franchisees were complaining to him. Carr accuses Penman of wanting to commit fraud and take the business away so he could run it himself.
Penman says he offered Carr the chance to sell the business and keep 80 per cent of the proceeds. Carr says this was a “commercially naive suggestion”. Trying to sell a business without its management – himself – would not work, he says.
“You’re not going to find a buyer under those circumstances,” he says.
Jim’s Mowing divisional manager Greg Puzzolo says franchises and franchisors’ divisions are frequently sold with a change of management.
The fight was never settled, as a legal stoush about whether it was to be heard in the UK or Australia went Penman’s way and Carr was ordered to pay Penman’s legal costs of £70,000. Carr subsequently opened a website, jimpenmanthetruth.com, detailing his complaints against Penman as well as those of other franchisors who said they had been treated in a similar way.
In September last year, Penman sued Carr for libel in the Victorian Supreme Court and secured a judgment of almost $230,000 against him.
“He’s not going to pay it,” Penman says. “It doesn’t matter. We’re just bankrupting him right now through the UK courts. It’s the only way to do it.”
Penman has a temper. In August 2009, he sent Carr an email he admits to regretting.
“You are a pathetic, sniveling [sic], miserable idiot,” Penman wrote. “You stuffed up the business so badly that everyone hates you, yet what you seem to believe is that you’ve done everything right and some vast conspiracy is on foot to do you down. Let me tell you something, you obnoxious cretin. I was willing once to give you the benefit of the doubt and try and get you to succeed or, failing that, at least to get your money out. But now I hate your guts and I’m going to do everything possible to destroy you. I’ll bankrupt you, wipe you from the map. Not only will you never have any involvement with Jim’s Group, but I’ll do my best to make sure that no reputable business will look at you without holding their nose.
“Do you really think I fear for my reputation when everyone you’ve dealt with hates you and supports me? Do you really think you’re going to look clean and pure when fifty people get up in court and say how you’ve damaged their businesses and their lives? You are loathsome and you are stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.”
Suffolk-based Carr says Penman, as an unsecured creditor, will not get a penny from his bankrupt estate. Carr accuses Penman of conspiring to defraud him out of the business.
“He’s won that part battle, but the war will continue as soon as I come out of bankruptcy in December.”