WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-Tire Kingdom Inc. has filed suit in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Don Olson Tire Inc. for alleged unfair business practices. The six-count suit, originally filed in December 1993 and amended March 25 to include BFS, alleges the tire maker and Don Olson Tire ``began a concerted campaign through the use of deception, false advertising and illegal conduct to unlawfully and unfairly compete with Tire Kingdom'' since 1991.
Tire Kingdom is seeking more than $25 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages and is also calling for the dissolution of Don Olson Tire.
Tire Kingdom owner Chuck Curcio said he believes the dealership could be awarded up to $50 million if the suit is successful.
Don Olson President Larry Morgan denied all the allegations in the suit: ``There's absolutely no truth to any of it,'' he said.
The suit alleges:
Don Olson advertisements knowingly promote low-cost tires and major brands the dealership does not stock in order to attract customers into the store;
Don Olson Tire ``solicited and promoted'' the October 1992 cancellation of a dealer agreement between Bridgestone/Firestone and Tire Kingdom; and
BFS released Tire Kingdom's customer credit card list to Don Olson Tire, which used the information to send personalized letters offering ``a free oil change and lubrication'' to Tire Kingdom customers.
The lawsuit also alleges BFS helped Mr. Morgan acquire Don Olson Tire in 1991 and has since helped him commit unfair business violations.
BFS, the suit says, ``holds and controls the issued stock of Olson Tire in connection with its investment in the company.''
``When you strip away the mask...(Don Olson) is simply a Firestone store,'' Mr. Curcio said.
Tire Kingdom is asking that the court order Don Olson Tire be dissolved as an entity for what it calls ``a pattern of racketeering.''
Mr. Morgan said Bridgestone/Firestone has no ownership interest in his dealership.
A BFS spokesman said the company cannot comment on the case while it is in litigation but added, ``We expect the outcome to be favorable for Bridgestone/Firestone.''
No court date has been set for the civil case, which is slated to appear before U.S. District Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp, but Mr. Curcio said he believes discovery will begin next month.
With 122 locations, all company-owned, and 1992 retail sales approaching $159 million, Tire Kingdom was among the five largest independent tire dealerships in North America in TIRE BUSINESS' 1993 ranking. Don Olson, with 58 outlets and retail sales of about $41 million, ranked in the top 20.