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Richard Solomon

I have not written on Blue MauMau for some time now, and just received notice of Richard's death from his family. 

There are many horror stories from franchisees on this site.  I met Richard during my own time of horror.  I was one of the largest franchisees of a well known franchise in the oil change business. When I joined this franchise, it was a public company, growing at warp speed.  As an entreprenuer myself, I had developed 13 independent locations with partners. 

I began to see the fast oil change concept exploding in the late 80's, and wondered if I could keep up with the big public money franchise threatening to overtake the business. My oil company ( which I had been a customer of for over 10 years) had recently entered a "strategic partnership" with this franchise, and warned me that they would no longer be able to provide financing to me, as they were directing it all to the development of this franchise.  They would not put this in writing of course - they just began turning down financing requests for new locations.

The franchise contacted me, and offered to buy me out. I was 34 years old, and not interested in that, so they convinced me to "merge" my locations into a new company, partly owned by the franchisor, and partly owned by it's founder, key shareholders, and Directors.  We would build 112 stores, and this would become the Company Store Division of the franchise. I was asked to head up the company as President, and promised the resources of the franchisor in financing growth. The oil company invited me to fly with them to the franchise convention on the corporate jet - where I saw a check for $1 million about to be presented to the franchise founder to assist in growth.  What a ride.

The franchise got into financial trouble within a year and a half of the transaction, and was bought out by.......the same oil company of which I was a customer. We had grown from 13 to 67 stores, and had several under construction and in development stages.  The oil company now notified me that they were now not only my oil company, but also my franchisor - and they had a financial mess on their hands after buying out the franchisor.

The oil company now wanted us to sell our locations to their newly acquired franchise.  Sorry about the original deal, they said - it was made by the former franchise founders who were now clearly out of favor, and might even have criminal charges filed against them.

Although we (reluctantly) worked out a deal with the franchise that kept us as a franchisee, life was never the same, and was always complicated by the fact that the oil company now owned the franchise, and called all of the shots. No more private jet trips to conventions, not to mention the loss of all financing promised in the original deal.

To make matters a bit worse, the oil company began supporting a competitor who was not a franchise.  The company poured millions of dollars into this company's expansion. The competitor's expansion exploded in our largest markets, and they set up shop near many of our most successful franchised shops. Our company, meanwhile, was required to pay a 5% franchise fee, and for that privelege, we were restricted from performing the other services our non-franchised, but oil company backed competitor performed - right down the block.

Then the other shoe dropped.  The Oil Company was bought out by a bigger oil company.

Enter Richard Solomon. I contacted him originally in an email.  I was beside myself - I would now be facing one of the largest corporations in the world.  Richard and I emailed often.  He asked questions - and he gave advice - mainly on what NOT to do.  Quit writing letters, he said, demanding a "fair" outcome - this will do you no good. Listen, he said, as I teach you the points of law that will either support you, or kill you. Talk to me before you make a move, he said.

When I first met Richard, in person, I was overwhelmed with his commanding presence.  He sported one of the largest, most impressive belt buckles I had ever seen, and his language was, let's say.....salty.  I begain to doubt that this would work out - he was as intimidating as any man I had ever met, and I began to question my sanity in hiring him.  My other lawyers (and my Board of Directors) also questioned me about this "rogue" lawyer I had found.

I had never before, nor have I since, had a person give me better practical and legal advice, or provide better counsel than Richard Solomon. This man knew what he was doing - really cared about his friends and clients, and did not believe in losing. 

Dispite all of the challenges, we left the franchise, and continued in business as an independent operator for another 11 years.  We recently sold our stores to a fine company in our business that I am proud to say is treating our employees better that we could afford to.

Without the incredible counsel and friendship of Richard Solomon, I would not have had a company to sell.

Richard and I remained email friends ever since that time, and he always invited me to Houston to have a drink with him any time.  I always cherished that offer, and wish I had taken him up on it. I am just glad I had many years to thank him (over and over) for his great counsel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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