The Kern family, famous for making carnival floats and decorations, is apparently divided tonight. Barry Kern is suing his father, Blaine Kern, and the power of the family business hangs in the balance. The two men, however, aren't the only ones involved. According to the lawsuit, there is a woman who seems to be calling all the shots.
The once thriving family business, symbolized by the bright colors of carnival, now rests in turmoil, spelled out in black and white. A lawsuit filed in civil district court pins Barry Kern against Blain Kern Artists, Inc., or BKA.
"It's not uncommon for these to get ugly," said Dane Ciolino, professor at the Loyola College of Law. "It's not uncommon to see these sorts of disputes drag on for quite a long time."
Barry is suing to oust his father, Blaine, from the head ranks of BKA. The lawsuit alleges "Blaine Kern, Sr. is jeopardizing the rights of the shareholders and/or creditors by grossly mismanaging the business …and/or by wrongfully misusing or misapplying the assets of BKA."
In the middle of the legal battle is apparently Holly Brown, Blaine Kern's 4th wife and 50 years his younger. A video posted on Facebook is named in the lawsuit, but was taken offline Friday afternoon.
Both Holly and Blaine appear to realize they're being interviewed, though it's unclear who posted and edited the video which details how the two met.
According to the lawsuit, Holly's influence on Blaine is ruining the business, stating, "soon after Blaine Kern, Sr. began dating Holly Brown, Blaine Kern, Sr.'s personal expenditures on houses, cars, travel, and entertainment, and thus his debt, skyrocketed. Besides attempting to reason with his father, Barry Kern directly implored holly brown to stop badgering his father for more and more money, without success. Instead, holly brown has manipulated her 83-year old husband and largely alienated him from his family, friends, business associates and employees."
Two weeks ago, Barry resigned as president and director of the company after his father tried firing him…..though, the lawsuit alleges he technically never had the authority to.
Randall Smith, Barry's attorney, is now fighting to have the court name a new head of BKA and Barry himself is willing to step in, according to Smith.
"The company is in trouble," said Smith. "At this point, bills aren't getting paid and there's no management."
FOX 8 news uncovered some of Blaine Kern's financial troubles in court records. The documents show Blaine Kern, Sr. has more than $207,000 in federal tax liens. And the company BKA, has $426,000 in federal tax liens for allegedly not paying employment taxes.
According to the lawsuit, these financial troubles, paired with Brown's influence, could bring down the company.
"One of the principal issues is going to be whether Blaine Kern, Sr. is capable of preserving the assets of corporations and protecting not only his own interests, but the company and minority shareholders," said Ciolino. "To the extent Ms. Brown would impair his ability to do that, and that's certainly alleged in the lawsuit, then she could play a big role in the court's determination in whether a receiver should be appointed and whether the corporation should be dissolved."
FOX 8 News did briefly get a hold of Blaine Kern over the phone on Friday. He said to call him later for comment, but he never answered.