The widow and children of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford are suing his brother Doug Ford, alleging he has deprived them of millions of dollars, including shares in the family business and a life insurance policy left behind to support his family.
In a $16.5-million lawsuit filed Friday in Superior Court, Renata Ford also alleges that former brother-in-law Doug Ford is a “negligent” business manager whose decisions have led to a steady decrease in the value of the Ford company, Deco Labels. Despite setting his sights on a political career, Doug has continued to receive “extravagant compensation,” even though Deco is losing money, Renata claims in her court filings.
Doug Ford has “knowingly and deliberately put (Renata and her two children) in a highly stressful and unfair financial position during their period of grief after Rob Ford’s death, and continued to do so for more than two years after Rob Ford’s death,” the statement of claim alleges.
The lawsuit was filed by lawyers from Aird & Berlis LLP in Superior Court against Doug, his brother Randy (who is a top executive at Deco), and the Deco company itself. The allegations have not been proven in court.
After the Star sent a list of questions to Doug Ford, a spokesperson responded with two statements, one from Doug and one from Diane Ford, his mother.
“These claims relating to Deco are completely false and we will strongly refute them in court,” said Doug Ford’s statement.
“I have also stood by my brother and his family through so many of their challenging times, and will always be there for (Rob and Renata’s children). Renata’s lawyers have been clear to us throughout this campaign, that either we hand over money, or they would go public with these false claims, and that is exactly what they have done, with three days to go until the election.”
Diane Ford sent the following statement through Doug’s spokesperson.
“It is heartbreaking that Renata has chosen to bring forward these false and baseless allegations against our family, right in the middle of the provincial election campaign. As a family, our one goal is to ensure Rob’s children are cared for and their financial futures are secure. Renata has serious struggles with addiction, and our hope is that she will accept help for the sake of herself and my grandchildren,” Diane said in her statement.
Randy Ford did not respond to a request for comment.
Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto from 2010-2014. He died of cancer March 22, 2016. Although highly popular with segments of the Toronto electorate, Ford was also wracked by substance abuse issues and was once videotaped smoking crack cocaine with people involved in the gun and drug trades.
Through it all, his wife, Renata, stood by his side. They have two children, a boy and a girl.
The lawsuit details numerous allegations against both Doug and Randy, who are the trustees for their late brother’s estate. Doug and Randy are also trustees of the estate of the late Doug Sr., father of Rob, Doug, Randy and Kathy. Kathy is not mentioned in the lawsuit.
The root of Renata’s issues lies with the assets of the family company, Deco Labels. Deco Labels was started in the 1960s by Doug Sr. Doug Sr. also, at one point, was a Progressive Conservative MPP and Doug Jr. is running to become premier of Ontario under the Progressive Conservative banner. Doug Sr. died in 2006.
Renata alleges that, when Rob died, she was left with Rob’s shares in Deco. Renata said soon after, brother Doug approached her and suggested they settle the estate without involving lawyers.
“Let’s get rid of the lawyers and settle this on our own,” Renata quotes Doug in her statement of claim. “They will only steal your money. You’re going to lose everything in your savings.”
Read the statement of claim in the Ford lawsuit
Renata states in her court filing that she did not follow Doug’s suggestions, nor did she agree to his suggestion that she sell her late husband’s shares to Doug. She says she tried many times to get an accounting of Rob’s estate, but she remains in the dark.
Renata states that she recently learned that Doug sold Randy Rob’s shares in Deco for a nominal cost of $1. She said she was then provided (the suit does not say who provided it) with a “third party valuation” of the shares and was told they had a “fair market value of zero.”
The Deco company makes labels and does business out of an Etobicoke factory, and also in Chicago. Renata states that when their father ran it, the company was extremely successful, with a market value of $10 million and an “investment portfolio” between $15 million and $20 million.
She alleges that the company has steadily lost value under Doug and Randy, who have been the top officers and directors of Deco since their father died.
“They have so negligently and improperly mismanaged (the business affairs of Deco) as to destroy their value,” she alleges.
According to the statement of claim, financial statements of Deco show Deco Toronto has experienced total losses of about $5 million between 2010 and 2017. Prior to Doug and Randy taking over it was profitable, she said.
During this time, Doug and Randy “arranged for and received very significant compensation from the Deco Companies. That compensation included extravagant salary, bonus, travel and automobile allowances and other benefits, which was paid regardless of the financial performance of those businesses.” No details were provided in the claim.
She also alleges that Doug and Randy “never took reasonable steps” to implement a business plan, and that he improperly hired friends and family to work at Deco, though they were “not qualified.” Although she provides no details, Renata also alleges in her suit that Doug and Randy have “negligently mistreated and unreasonably dismissed employees” who suggested ways to make Deco profitable again.
“Neither Doug Ford nor Randy Ford have the education and business ability to justify their employment as senior officers of Deco,” she alleges, adding that they carried out numerous “ill-advised acquisitions” of businesses and assets in New Jersey, Chicago and Ohio.
The lawsuit refers to Doug Ford’s political ambitions.
“After deciding to devote himself primarily to politics and other interests, Doug Ford nevertheless maintained his position as an officer and director of the Deco Companies, and arranged to continue to receive very extravagant compensation, notwithstanding that the businesses were losing money.”
The statement of claim estimates that through Doug and Randy’s use of their late father’s estate funds to prop up the Deco business, Rob Ford’s estate has been deprived of about $5 million.
She also alleges that Doug has “failed to administer and improperly administered Rob’s estate,” and deprived Renata and the children of the proceeds of a $220,000 insurance policy that the two brothers “improperly retained and withheld.” She said they did the same thing with Rob’s bank accounts, GICs, RRSPs and other investments.
Renata also alleges that Doug “charged unreasonable and unjustified expenses and fees against the Estate of Rob Ford.”