Resolute mediator Judge Gary Gerlach successfully mediates $20 legal feud matter

Published on: 7/28/2011

A long-running legal battle between Milwaukee apparel executive Bruce Ross and his multimillionaire financial backer, the late Bernard Marden, has been settled.

Ross, heir to the former JH Collectibles clothing business, has been involved in multiple lawsuits with Marden in New York and Wisconsin since 2008. The dispute centered on a $20 million investment that Marden, a friend of Ross’ late father, made in 1998 in Imagemark, a new company that Ross started after his family’s JH Collectibles apparel company was liquidated.

Marden, of Palm Beach, Fla., died in 2010 at the age of 91, but the lawsuits continued, with his estate becoming the litigant in the actions.

In one of the lawsuits, Marden sought repayment of the $20 million, plus damages. The $20 million entirely staked the launch of Imagemark, a logo apparel company originally known as JH Concepts. Marden fired Ross from Imagemark in 2007, and claimed in the suit that Ross had mismanaged the business.

Imagemark eventually was shut down and put into receivership.

Ross contended that Marden was using his vast financial resources to ruin him with the prolonged court battle. He claimed in a suit that Marden had failed to pay him money he was owed and accused Marden of spying on his and his wife’s communications in a company computer.

A suit in federal court in Milwaukee and the suits between the parties in Milwaukee County Circuit Court have been dismissed after the parties reached an agreement in a mediation session with Gary Gerlach, a retired Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge. The settlement does not include the Imagemark receivership case.

As part of the settlement agreement, the Rosses paid $300,000 to the Marden family.

The settlement said, in part: “The parties further acknowledge that this is a resolution of a business dispute and that after discovery and investigation the parties acknowledge that there is no evidence of any fraudulent conduct, mismanagement or other bad acts committed by Bruce or Jami Ross.”

Randall Crocker, an attorney for Ross, said: “Bruce and Jami Ross were disgusted to be named in this lawsuit which was without merit. They are pleased to put this case behind them. After making demands for more than $60 million, representatives of Bernard Marden released all claims and acknowledged in writing that there is no evidence of any fraudulent conduct, mismanagement or other bad acts committed by the Rosses. The settlement amount agreed to was significantly less than the costs of defending the case. This concludes this expensive and unfortunate litigation.”

Matthew Flynn, attorney for the Mardens, said his clients agreed to settle after being told that they wouldn’t be able to collect on a judgment because the Rosses’ assets were tied up with a family trust. The trust, set up by Bruce Ross’ father, is the couple’s sole source of income, Flynn said.

“The choice we had to make was ‘Do you go through litigation and win, and not get any money?’ You can’t sue a trust,” Flynn said.