Renata Ford, the wife of late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $16 million against Rob’s brothers, Doug Ford and Randy Ford, and their associated businesses days before the Ontario election.
The lawsuit claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday by Renata’s legal counsel alleges breach of trust as it relates to the management of her husband’s estate and claims the loss of millions of dollars.
Rob died on March 22, 2016, after a lengthy battle with a rare form of cancer. But according to the statement of claim, it’s alleged – among other claims — that Doug failed to administer Rob’s estate, sold Rob’s shares in a family business for “nominal consideration” and withheld assets “in an attempt to keep his misconduct secret.”
Doug, who is now leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, was Rob’s estate trustee and was directed under Rob’s wills to divide the estate into three equal parts — one to be given to Renata and the remaining two to be held in trust for Rob’s children, Stephanie and Douglas — the documents said.
The lawsuit alleged Doug spoke with Renata after Rob’s death and suggested the estate should be settled without lawyers.
“When Renata Ford questioned the wisdom of that suggestion, Doug Ford stated to her, ‘Let’s get rid of the lawyers and settle this on our own. They will only steal your money. You’re going to lose everything in your savings,'” the statement of claim read, adding Doug contacted Renata to suggest she sell him Rob’s shares in a Ford family business, Deco Toronto.
“Doug Ford advised Renata Ford that owning the shares would just be stressful for her. Renata Ford declined that proposal.”
The statement of claim alleged Doug continues to control Rob’s estate assets and hasn’t provided Renata with “full information and documentation concerning the contents or status of Rob’s estate.” It said Renata and Doug agreed in October 2016 that Doug would provide “complete” information on the assets “as soon as possible.”
In 2017, the statement alleged Doug agreed to sell Rob’s shares in Deco Toronto to Randy for $1. It said Randy then became owner of Deco Toronto, Doug became 100 per cent owner of Deco Chicago and their late father’s estate, Doug Ford Sr., would become owner of Doug Ford Holdings Inc.
The documents alleged Renata was provided a third-party valuation of another associated company called Deco Adhesive Products (1985) Limited, which said Rob’s shares in that corporation “had a fair market value of zero” when transferred. It said further information about the Deco Companies was “alarming.”
The statement of claim went on to say that when Doug and Randy had control of the Deco Companies, they “improperly mismanaged them as to destroy their value,” noting when Doug Sr. operated the companies, “they were extremely successful.” It estimated the value of Deco Toronto alone was at $10 million. The statement listed financial losses between 2010 and 2017.
It said after Doug Sr. died, Doug and Randy arranged to receive “very significant compensation” from the Deco Companies, including “extravagant” salaries, bonuses, travel and car allowances. Among the allegations in the statement of claim, Doug and Randy didn’t agree on a business plan and didn’t take “reasonable” steps to implement one.
“Neither Doug Ford nor Randy Ford have the education and business ability to justify their employment as senior officers of Deco Toronto and Deco Chicago. Nevertheless, they failed to retain competent and independent management to operate the businesses after their father’s death, or to retain appropriate business advisers to assist them,” the statement said.
“After deciding to devote himself primarily to politics and other interests, Doug Ford nevertheless maintained his position as an officer and director of the Deco Companies, and arranged to continue to receive very extravagant compensation, notwithstanding that the businesses were losing money.
“Randy Ford and Doug Ford could not agree on strategies, policies and decisions in respect of the business and affairs of the Deco Companies.”
Global News contacted the Ontario PC Party for comment with respect to the lawsuit and the allegations. Through a spokesperson, statements were released on behalf of Diane Ford, Doug’s mother, and Doug.
“It is heartbreaking that Renata has chosen to bring forward these false and baseless allegations against our family, right in the middle of the provincial election campaign,” the statement from Diane read.
“As a family, our one goal is to ensure Rob’s children are cared for and their financial futures are secure.”
In Doug’s statement, it said the claims about the Deco Companies are “completely false” and will be refuted in court.
“I have also stood by my brother and his family through so many of their challenging times, and will always be there for Stephanie and Dougie,” the statement said.
“Renata’s lawyers have been clear to us throughout this campaign, that either we hand over money or they would go public with these false claims, and that is exactly what they have done with three days to go until the election.”
The statement of claim was also sent to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, but the involvement of the office is unclear.
The allegations have not been proven in court and a statement of defence has not been filed.
— With files from Jamie Mauracher and Travis Dhanraj