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Grayton Beer Company tap room opens today without founder Jamey Price

Tom McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Grayton Beer Company on Tuesday opened the doors to its popular tap room to the imbibing public.

It did so for the first time without Jamey Price, who founded the craft beer distillery and tap room in 2011 and had served since then as its chief operation officer.

A statement released by the company May 19 states that Price “left his role as president of Grayton Beer Company to pursue other endeavors.”

Price was nudged out as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed against him by minority owners in the company.

The suit alleged violations of fiduciary obligations and the mishandling of company funds, either through negligence or “intentional misconduct.”

“Price’s wrongful acts of self dealing, misappropriation and malfeasance ... show multiple breaches of Price’s fiduciary duties of loyalty and oversight,” the suit stated.

Price could not be reached for comment.

In 2010 Grayton Beer Company was incorporated. It opened as a brewery and tap room with Price as the majority owner with a 79 percent stake in the company.

The lawsuit, filed in last August by attorney Ben Gordon on behalf of minority owners Teresa Palmer and Geoffery Chick, alleged that Price and his wife created a limited liability corporation and used it to establish a brewpub business.

Price ran the brew pub as though it was a sister business to the brewery and tap room, but did not share revenues to fellow owners, the suit alleged.

“Price asserts the brewpub is Price’s own separate entity with no affiliation to the brewery,” it stated.

But, according to the lawsuit, Price was using a $542,000 grant the Grayton Beer Company received from the University of West Florida to hire employees and conduct brewpub operations.

Incorporated into the grant were obligations Grayton Beer Company was required to meet to keep the money it had been provided. The suit said Price failed to meet the required obligations.

The suit alleged that despite its substantial gross sales, the Grayton Beer brewery was operated at a significant net loss. It accused Price of making payments to himself of $125,637 without supporting documentation.

It alleged he used company funds to charter private planes for his own use and that he gave several thousand dollars to his father.

It cited a $580,000 “unreconciled inventory difference between the inventory lists and the general ledger inventory base.”

A CPA’s assessment of company finances prior to Price leaving Grayton Beer Company “present more than a remote likelihood that a material misstatement in the Brewery’s financial statements could occur and would not be prevented or detected.”

“Price acted in his own self interest to the exclusion of the brewery and its other members ... by creating (a) brewpub and using the brewery’s assets and goodwill to support the brewpub’s operations,” the suit said. “His conduct was either grossly negligent or willful or intentional misconduct.”

The lawsuit was dismissed after “an agreement was reached to put in place new management at Grayton Beer Company,” Gordon said in an email.

Bo Walker, the new chief operations officer for Grayton Beer Company, was named as Price’s replacement April 30.

“As founding partner and former CEO of Oyster City Brewing Company, Walker has experience in all facets of the craft beer industry including distribution, operations and logistics – making him an industry expert,” the news release announcing Price’s departure said.

Price has retained majority ownership in the brewpub he opened, according to Walker.

Northwest Florida Daily News

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