MAD Atelier International B.V. is majority-owned by one of the largest private-sector conglomerates in Turkey with interests in the hotel and restaurant industries, Dogus Group.
Axel Manes, a renowned French chef, and one of the youngest chefs to obtain a Michelin star is the executive chef at the “L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon” restaurant in Paris.
In 2015, MAD Atelier International B.V and Axel Manes along with others entered a joint venture to build an international franchise of restaurants under the “L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon” brand.
As part of the joint venture, the shares of MAD Atelier S.A.S. (“Paris Restaurant Shares”), the company which owned the Paris Restaurant, were transferred to MAD Atelier International B.V.
On the 3rd of August 2016, one of MAD Atelier International B.V.’s directors, Mr. Padberg, signed share transfer documents at a meeting with Axel Manes at the Paris Restaurant by which MAD International sold the Paris Restaurant Shares to MA Developpement S.A.S., owned by Axel Manes, for €3,086,698. This sale of the Paris Restaurant Shares terminated the joint venture.
MAD Atelier International B.V. claimed damages for fraud and breaches of the joint venture agreement on the basis that Mr. Padberg did not know he was executing a share transfer and his signature on the share transfer documents was induced by Axel Manes’ deceit. MAD Atelier International B.V. also claimed damages due to loss of profits.
After a 4-week trial, including 3 days’ cross-examination of Axel Manes, the Judge accepted MAD Atelier International B.V.’s submissions on liability and the evidence of its main witnesses.
The Judge concluded that Axel Manes had set up a scheme, with the help of his lawyer, to persuade Mr. Padberg to come to Paris on the pretext of approving the Paris Restaurant’s accounts to deceive him into signing the share transfer documents, in French, which he knew that Mr. Padberg would have great difficulty in understanding. The Court awarded MAD Atelier International B.V. damages as a result of the fraud.