A Milwaukee wine distributor is suing the Kansas City company behind wine bottles etched with the Green Bay Packers logo, arguing it violated Wisconsin dealership law when it ended their relationship.
[caption id="attachment_334738" align="alignright" width="375"] Mano's sells wine bottles with a variety of team logos, including the Green Bay Packers.[/caption]
Pure Wine Wisconsin and Missouri-based Mano’s Inc. entered into an exclusive distribution agreement on Jan. 1, according to the complaint. Mano’s sells wines in bottles with the logos (some etched into the bottles others a label on the bottle) of sports teams from various leagues and also offers custom designs for companies. The company’s Packers offerings include commemorative Ice Bowl etched designs and others with a Packers label.
According to the complaint, Pure Wine was to distribute Mano’s products and the company “exerted substantial efforts to identify, develop, market to and service potential purchasers.”
The products to be distributed included a red wine with the Packers logo on the bottle. By Feb. 21, Pure Wine was able to secure a verbal commitment for 2,000 cases of the Packers wine from Roundy’s Supermarkets with the possibility of additional purchases in the future, according to the complaint.
Pure Wine says three months later a Roundy’s representative said the company wouldn’t work with Pure Wine as a vendor of the Mano’s product. Roundy’s “insisted that Mano’s either use another vendor of Roundy’s choosing or Roundy’s would find another product from another supplier,” the complaint says.
When Pure Wine took the issue to Mano’s, the company said it agreed with Pure Wine’s concerns but “could not pass up the deal being offered by Roundy’s.” At that point, Mano’s terminated its relationship with Pure Wine and sold its products directly to Roundy’s, according to the complaint.
An attorney for Mano’s responded to an email Thursday to say the firm does not comment on pending litigation. Joseph Goode, of Milwaukee-based Laffey, Leitner & Goode LLC, emailed again Friday taking issue with the characterization of why Mano's ended the relationship and said the company would be filing an answer and counterclaim next week.
He said the filing "will demonstrate Mano’s denials of this bad faith filing and show that Pure Wine has failed to pay Mano’s for product it ordered during the pendency of the relationship. It will further demonstrate that Pure Wine failed to perform. Finally, it will demonstrate that Mano’s does not (and has never) sold directly as your article suggest(s)."
Rod Rogahn, chief executive of Rogahn Jones LLC, the Waukesha-based firm representing Pure Wine, said the assertions in the complaint are "true and accurate" and the state has fair dealership laws for a reason. He added his hope is the parties will be able to resolve the dispute through the court process.
The complaint alleges Mano’s violated Wisconsin law requiring it to have good cause to terminate the relationship and provide 90 days of notice and 60 days to cure any deficiency before ending the relationship.
Pure Wine is seeking its costs and expenses from finding potential purchasers for Mano’s products, the profits it would have earned on the sale of the Packers wine, profits it would have earned on the sale of other Mano’s products to Roundy’s and other purchasers, the total value of compensation for Pure Wine employees involved in bringing the Packers wine to Roundy’s and attorney fees.
The complaint does not specify an actual amount. Pure Wine originally filed the lawsuit Oct. 20 in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Mano’s filed paperwork Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin to move the case from state to federal court. In addition to the two companies being based in different states, attorney’s for Mano’s argued the amount of money involve likely exceeds $75,000.
This story has been updated to reflect additional comment from a Mano's attorney.