Shakespeare Theatre Company Wins In Legal Battle Against Landlord
Update Dec. 12: Read the preliminary injunction order after the jump.
The D.C. Superior Court has ruled in favor of The Shakespeare Theatre Company in its ongoing lawsuit against its landlord. In a preliminary injunction order signed today, the court barred the defendants—nonprofit group Lansburgh Theatre Inc. and building owner Graham Gund, among them—from raising rent or "taking any action to interfere with Shakespeare Theatre Company's occupancy" of the downtown theater house, according to a release STC sent this evening.
Shakespeare Theatre Company's lawsuit claims that Gund's company, Gunwyn, attempted to violate Lansburgh Theatre Inc.'s charter in order to, basically, squeeze more money out of the building at 450 7th St. NW. In 1992, Gund donated the theater to the nonprofit as part of a real-estate deal, establishing LTI as a "supporting organization" meant to assist STC's objectives indefinitely.
But this year, LTI demanded a 700 percent rent increase as a condition of Shakespeare's lease renewal. Shakespeare refused to pony up, citing LTI's ongoing obligation to the theater company. So LTI President (and Gunwyn employee) Kenneth Krozy, according to court filings, threatened to immediately toss the company out of its home of 20 years, and asked STC's Managing Director Chris Jennings to resign from LTI's board.
To stay in the building and avoid a rent increase, STC filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in June, and later brought a lawsuit against LTI. On Dec. 3, a judge denied the defandants' motion to dismiss. Today, D.C. Superior Court ruled that Shakespeare's supporting organization ought to stick to supporting, not gouging, and prevented LTI from taking further action to boot STC from the venue. (An LTI attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.)
Another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10.
From the press release:
The D.C. Superior Court ruled today in favor of the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC), recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award. In an order signed by the court today, the court enjoined all defendants—Boston based developer Graham Gund and a group of entities and people affiliated with him—from taking any action to interfere with Shakespeare Theatre Company's occupancy of the Lansburgh Theatre, the home of STC for 20 years.
The lawsuit brought by STC alleges that famed Boston-based real estate developer Graham Gund, who donated the theatre to a non-profit entity in 1992, was attempting to control and interfere with the charity in violation of its D.C. charter and IFRS rules prohibiting his control, in order to enhance the profitability of the Lansburgh Building, which is owned by Gund and Gund's company Gunwyn / Lansburgh Limited Partnership. The court order entered today specifically stops Defendant Gund from evicting or otherwise interfering with the STC supporting charity.
Randy Miller of the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP and counsel for the Shakespeare Theatre Company stated that "the order entered today provides protection and security for the Shakespeare Theatre Company and safeguards a cultural treasure, the Lansburgh Theatre."
There is a hearing scheduled for January 10, 2013 to determine whether the Order should be expanded.
“We are pleased that the Court ruled in our favor today," said STC’s Managing Director Chris Jennings. "This is a victory for not only the Shakespeare Theatre Company, but for our patrons, supporters, and the people of Washington, D.C. who have shown their unwavering support during this time. We look forward to continuing to provide Washington, D.C. with world-class theatre in our home at the Lansburgh for many years to come, starting with Richard Schiff in Hughie at the end of January.”
This post has been updated to include more language about the judge's preliminary injunction order and the scheduled hearing on Jan. 10.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ecragg.