Despite a marriage that has produced the most successful furniture line ever, artist Bob Timberlake and Lexington Home Brands just can’t get along. Their often-stormy relationship (cover story, May) has taken another bad turn, with what amounts to a petition for divorce sitting in North Carolina Business Court in Greensboro. The issue this time: whether the manufacturer is doing enough to tout The World of Bob Timberlake furniture.
For years, they fought over where to make the line, which has sold more than $1 billion since its introduction in 1990. Thomasville-based Lexington holds the license and wanted to offshore production, but Timberlake insisted that it be made in the United States. They reached an uneasy peace in March 2006 after a team of investors opened Linwood Furniture Inc. in a former Lexington plant. The group included Dan Timberlake, son of the artist and chief operating officer of Bob Timberlake Inc. Linwood manufactures Timberlake’s furniture under contract to Lexington.
Since Linwood started, Dan Timberlake says, Lexington has failed to promote the line. In June, Bob Timberlake Inc. filed a notice with Lexington claiming breach of contract and seeking termination of the license in 60 days unless the company beefed up marketing. That got a response. “Instead of calling to discuss it, they felt like the best defense was a good offense and sued us.”
Lexington denied that it failed to market the line and asked that the license remain in force. It hasn’t talked publicly about the lawsuit. In August, Bob Timberlake Inc. asked that the contract be dissolved because the 60 days had passed. It likely will stay in force while the lawsuit plays out. Dan Timberlake says he doesn’t understand how it has come to this. “We think it’s totally illogical that they would breach the agreement by not marketing the line. But they have failed to respond to questions.”
The license is scheduled to expire after 2010. Maybe then, if not sooner, the two sides will finally find some peace.
When the story broke, some said it resembled a Johnny Cash song: One Piece at a Time. That’s the one about an autoworker who smuggled out enough parts to build a composite ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52 — you get the picture — Cadillac. Now it sounds like a different Cash classic: Folsom Prison Blues. The case concerns eight employees — most managers — at the now-closed Bassett Furniture Industries Inc. plant in Dobson. They were charged in late 2005 with stealing about 1,250 pieces of finished furniture — some $2 million worth — over seven years (Tar Heel Tattler, January 2006). Plant Manager John Ronald Jarrett, 65, pleaded guilty in July in Superior Count to seven counts of conspiracy to commit embezzlement in excess of $100,000 and was sentenced to two consecutive 25- to 39-month prison terms, five years’ probation and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution. Jarrett is the second defendant to plead guilty but the first to be sentenced. Cases against the other six are pending.