News Column

Trash Tweets Greet Tully's Delay

June 6, 2013

Melissa Allison


The gloves have come off in a Twitter battle between Tully's Coffee founder Tom O'Keefe and the lawyer for actor Patrick Dempsey's investor group, which plans to buy the chain out of bankruptcy.

The argument involves the issue of why the deal hasn't closed more than four months after it was expected to.

O'Keefe occasionally writes -- or in social-media parlance, "tweets" -- about it on Twitter.

The lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted Tuesday that O'Keefe "needs to find a new obsession and a new co to BK." That's shorthand for "a new company to bankrupt."

O'Keefe earlier that day had tweeted to someone who asked how he likes Dempsey: "I'm not sure of his bedside manner, he's having nurses do all his work ... with no gloves on!"

Dempsey's group told the court in a March filing that a big reason for the delay is work involved in completing a contract with Boeing, whose facilities house 12 of Tully's 47 shops.

"On Monday we finalized our exclusive contract with Boeing, which now runs through the end of 2016," Avenatti said in an emailed statement Wednesday. "We look forward to formally closing the deal this month and beginning the revitalization of Tully's."

O'Keefe has not been the only one worried about how long the deal is taking to close.

When U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Karen Overstreet approved the Dempsey group's acquisition of Tully's in January, the deal was expected to close later that month. The judge and others indicated the chain was on the verge of running out of cash.

At a hearing in May, Overstreet expressed her frustration.

"I'm looking for ways, to put it bluntly, [to] put some pressure on Boeing to get the parties talking to get this done," she said, according to records. "This has put the debtor [Tully's] in a very precarious situation ... The whole case makes me a little nervous right now."

Another lawyer for Dempsey's group said at the hearing that the Boeing contract involved more than the simple consent Tully's attorney led them to believe it would require.

Meanwhile, Dempsey's group has advanced a nonrefundable $500,000 to the company to help it continue operating.

Larry Ream, a partner with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, which represents Tully's unsecured creditors, expects the acquisition to go through.

"I believe that it's going to close. I don't think they're going to walk," Ream said.

The creditors, including Schwartz Brothers bakery, Finale's Gourmet Desserts and EK Beverage, are set to receive money when the $9.15 million deal finally closes.

O'Keefe, who retired from Tully's in 2010, has mentioned the late closing repeatedly on Twitter.

The interaction with Avenatti began after O'Keefe tweeted last week that he heard a rumor the "McDreamy deal will blow up by Monday."

Avenatti replied, calling it "nonsense," and the deal did not blow up.

The lawyer added that "it has to be done right (so the co. does not return to BK)," meaning bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, O'Keefe tweeted in a conversation with a reporter that his recollection was that the bid from Dempsey's group was not contingent upon having a contract with Boeing.

Avenatti shot back, "ALL deals were contingent on Boeing. Tom knows this. He needs to find a new obsession and a new co to BK."

On Wednesday, O'Keefe tweeted in part, "I stand corrected. But, BK filing was repugnant."

O'Keefe was no longer working at Tully's when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

The company had turned a profit in just two of its 20 years in business.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or Twitter @AllisonSeattle.


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