By DAVID PITTMAN
Lisa Frank is clearly in control of the company that bears her name.
According to a spokesman for Lisa Frank Inc., Frank took over yesterday as CEO and president of the Tucson-based company, positions formerly occupied by her husband, James Green, from whom she is seeking a divorce.
The shift in leadership appears to resolve a messy legal dispute between the couple over control of the business, though lawyers representing Frank and Green were not available to comment on the matter yesterday.
A statement released by Lisa Frank Inc. said Frank and Green would work in “an amicable and productive manner” and that the management shift was reached in “a mutual agreement” that assures the company – which designs and manufactures girls’ toys, stickers, stationery, school supplies and lifestyle products – will continue to thrive.
“Both James and I believe that the future of the company and our employees is brighter than ever,” Frank said in the statement.
Lisa Frank Inc. has pulled in more than $1 billion in retail sales over the past 15 years, according to court documents. The company is projected to have $35.5 million in sales this year.
On Wednesday, Frank, Green and their lawyers were on different sides in a legal matter in Pima County Superior Court.
The couple, who married in 1994, are the firm’s only stockholders. Frank owns 51 percent of the company and claims in legal documents that she “gifted” 49 percent of the business to her husband.
Lawyers for Frank, who include former state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Zlaket, were seeking a court ruling ordering Green to call a shareholders meeting immediately because the couple was “deadlocked on issues critical to the business.”
John N. Iurino, Green’s lawyer, countered that Frank wanted to force an “unauthorized” and “illegal” shareholder’s meeting for the “sole purpose” of ousting Green as president and chief executive.
Iurino said Frank wanted full control of the company to force Green to sell his shares back to her at a discounted price as dictated under a buy-sell agreement entered into in December 1995.
Under the buy-sell agreement, if Frank files a petition for divorce, Lisa Frank Inc. has the right to purchase Green’s shares at a discounted price if Green no longer works for the company, court documents said.
Frank filed for divorce from Green, whose only position with the company now is as a member of the board of directors, on Sept. 28.
Mark Stanton, a spokesman for Lisa Frank Inc., had no comment about the divorce proceedings yesterday, saying it was unrelated to the management changes.
Despite changes in Lisa Frank Inc.’s leadership structure, the status of the corporate legal dispute between Frank and Green is unclear because Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini ordered the case file closed to the public and conducted Wednesday’s hearing behind closed doors.
After the Tucson Citizen filed a motion seeking that the case be opened to the public, Bernini indicated she would reopen the case file and conduct all future hearings in the matter in open court. However, as of yesterday the file was still closed.