Salary-slashing CEO sued by brother

by Nicola Middlemiss24 Jul 2015
The Seattle CEO who set a $70,000 minimum wage for his staff may have won recognition from around the world but it seems he’s ruffled a few feathers close to home.

Dan Price – who took a 98 per cent pay cut to make the impressive minimum wage possible – cofounded a credit card payment processing company with his brother Lucas – but it appears the siblings are now out of sync.

The Seattle Times reports that Lucas Price has accused Dan of violating his rights as a minority shareholder of Gravity Payments and breaching duties and contracts.

King County Superior Court documents show that the complaints were initially signed on March 13 and filed April 24 – 11 days after Dan Price announced the company’s universal minimum-wage hike.

Attorney Greg Hollon, who represents Lucas Price, insists the lawsuit is not solely in response to the Dan’s internationally acclaimed altruistic act.

“It was an aggregation of events over the course of years,” Hollon told the Seattle Times.
According to the documents, the now-feuding brothers founded Price & Price as a merchant-services company in 2004. Dan Price became CEO in 200 but in 2008, amid disagreements, they restructured it into a new company - Gravity Payments.

Court records show that during the restructuring, Lucas Price accepted a minority interest and a reduced employee role, enabling Dan Price continue as CEO. In the process, the brothers entered into several contracts, which limited Dan’s financial compensation and protected Lucas’ shareholder rights.

It’s claimed that Dan Price excessively paid himself and deprived Lucas Price of his minority-shareholder benefits.

According to media reports, Dan Price was paying himself nearly $1 million a year before he took the widely-reported pay cut.

Dan Price has denied all complaints brought against him.

“I know the decision to pay everyone a living wage is controversial,” Dan Price said during a phone interview with the newspaper.

“Although the decision was not entirely made for business reasons, my team and I are committed to making my vision a business success,” he added. “I deeply regret the rift this has caused in my relationship with my brother, who I love, and I’m hoping and praying for a quick resolution that’s positive for everybody.”

The case highlights exactly how altruistic executive decisions – no matter how popular – can have serious ramifications when it comes to shareholders.

Bob Lane is the director of people care and communications at Solvera Solutions – he says shared communication between all parties involved is essential when making major decisions.

“When decisions come along, we start every conversation with how we can keep things in line with our people and clients and shareholders,” he told HRM – no one should be left out of the equation.


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