SOURCE: Christensen Group Inc.

May 25, 2016 15:09 ET

Christensen Group Sues Tennessee Tycoon for Driving Vancouver Business Christensen Shipyards Into Financial Ruin

Court Filings Describe Henry Luken as a Corporate Raider With a History of Unethical Business Practices

VANCOUVER, WA--(Marketwired - May 25, 2016) - Tennessee multimillionaire Henry Luken raided Christensen Shipyards Ltd., a family-owned business in Vancouver, Washington, by obtaining a large stake in the company, pushing it toward financial ruin and then buying all of its assets for cheap, according to court documents filed today in U.S. District Court.

Submitted by former officers David Christensen, Joe Foggia, Pat Withee, and by the Christensen Group Inc., the court filing provides an answer to Luken's recent lawsuit attempting to obtain property where the shipyard is located. It also asserts counterclaims against Luken, who is accused in the lawsuit of preying on the Christensen family for his own financial gain by stealing the company they spent decades building, putting hundreds of people out of work and destroying the family's reputation in Southwest Washington.

The allegations in the lawsuit center on Luken's history as an out-of-state corporate raider with a pattern of acquiring companies through financial manipulation, high-pressure tactics and fraudulent transfers.

Luken is also accused in the lawsuit of taking approximately $5 million from a former customer of Christensen Shipyards and then spending the money on a personal airplane, six exotic cars and paying off his own personal credit card charges.

"The lawsuit alleges that Henry Luken put his own greed over the welfare of his employees and business partners," said Kerry Shepherd of Markowitz Herbold PC, attorneys for the Christensen family. "David Christensen gave this company his considerable time and talents, infused his own funds and continually put the welfare of employees and others ahead of his own personal financial gain. How tragic that he took on Henry Luken as a partner with quite opposite priorities." 

Founded in 1985 by longtime Vancouver resident David Christensen as a small family business building midsize, composite yachts, Christensen Shipyards grew to employ hundreds of people and earned a reputation as one of the best composite yacht builders in the world.

Luken began skimming profits and cutting side deals with personal friends after he acquired a 50 percent stake in the company, according to court records. Luken took advantage of the financial troubles he caused by forcing the company into receivership, enabling him to acquire the company's remaining assets at a discount, court documents state.

At the time, Christensen's founder and business leader, David Christensen, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and could no longer manage the company's day-to-day operations.

"This is a sad story made worse by the fact my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's while this was taking place," said Kathy Maynard, David Christensen's daughter.

According to the complaint, the Christensen family in 2014 had offered to give Luken all of the company's assets in return for his agreement to protect Christensen employees, creditors and boat owners and to preserve the reputation of the Christensen Yachts name; however, Luken reneged on that agreement. His new company still uses the Christensen name but employs only a fraction of the original workforce, and primarily to finish boats for himself and his wealthy friends far under construction costs and market value, according to the lawsuit.

"This would have never happened while Dad (David Christensen) was still in control of and actively participating in the operations and decision-making in the business," Maynard said.

This isn't the first time Luken has faced charges over his business practices. In a remarkably similar case in 2013, an Arkansas jury found Luken liable for fraudulently transferring assets from a company called Equity Media, with a jury awarding a $47.4 million verdict against Luken.

In the Vancouver case, the Christensen family is seeking damages in excess of $17.2 million against Luken.

About Christensen Group Inc.:

Christensen Group Inc. was founded by David Christensen in 1962 in Vancouver, Washington. It remains a family-owned business to this day, with real estate holdings in the greater Vancouver area.

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