A derailed business partnership and friendship has turned litigious.
John Moulton and Buck Ward’s battle over a local trolley tour business has made its way to Richmond Circuit Court.
Moulton filed a lawsuit Feb. 8 against Ward and his RVA Trolley LLC after the two failed to work out their differences outside of court.
The two are grappling over control of the Richmond Trolley Company, a venture they founded together in 2011. Moulton, who largely financed the company, is looking to have a judge force Ward out as president of Richmond Trolley and to have him relinquish control of the business. Moulton is also asking for an injunction prohibiting Ward from operating a competing business.
Frustrated with the relationship and tired of footing the bill, Moulton last summer essentially foreclosed on Richmond Trolley’s five 16,000-pound trolley cars.
Ward has since purchased a trolley of his own and started RVA Trolley, which is directly competing against Richmond Trolley, according to the suit.
But Ward, the suit alleges, has refused to relinquish control of Richmond Trolley’s bank accounts and has refused to give Moulton access to login information for the company’s websites, through which customers make reservations.
Moulton’s suit said the two signed an agreement stating that Ward, as president and manager of Richmond Trolley, was to be responsible for day-to-day operations. The agreement also prohibits either party from operating a business that directly competes with Richmond Trolley.
“Richmond Trolley’s successful operation is frustrated by Ward and RVA’s continuing role as president and managing member of Richmond Trolley and their directly competing enterprises,” the suit states.
Both Moulton and Ward declined to comment on the suit. They each own a 50/50 stake of Richmond Trolley, despite Moulton having put up much of the money. Moulton has said he put up 100 percent of the money to get the trolley company going. To date, that amounts to about $520,000.
Ward is represented by LeClairRyan attorney Vernon Inge, who declined to comment.
Moulton is represented by John McManus and Stacie Bordick of Hirschler Fleischer. McManus did not respond for comment by press time.
The partners met in 2010, when Moulton was looking to start a Segway tour business in Fredericksburg.
Ward, who at the time owned the Segway of Richmond dealership in Shockoe Slip, sold Moulton a fleet of the machines, and the two eventually teamed up on a tour business at the Spotsylvania Battlefield.
Their relationship and friendship evolved in 2011, when Ward’s Segway shop ran into legal trouble and lost its insurance. Moulton says he stepped up and helped Segway of Richmond regain its coverage.
The two eventually began to have disagreements on pricing, marketing and operations of the trolley business, Moulton has said, and the venture was losing money.
Moulton has also opened his own Segway shop, River City Segs, in an old fire station in Shockoe Bottom.
In his suit, Moulton, on behalf of Richmond Trolley, is asking for judicial dissociation, which would expel Ward as a member of the LLC.
The suit claims breach of fiduciary duty against Ward, violations of the Virginia Uniform Trade Secrets Act and other counts.
It seeks damages of $205,000 to cover Ward’s half of the money Moulton has put up to keep the operation going.