• Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

De Tomaso supercar revival hits speed bump with lawsuit against founder

Bynewsmagzines

May 27, 2023
De Tomaso supercar revival hits speed bump with lawsuit against founder

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A planned revival of Italian sports car brand De Tomaso as a maker of $1 million supercars appears to have hit a speed bump with lawsuit against the founder by the former chief executive officer.

Ryan Berris, who joined De Tomaso Automobili Holdings NA in 2014 as CEO and lead developer of its planned P72 supercar, sued the company and its founder, Hong Kong financier Norman Choi, on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. Berris claims he was fired last year because he stood in the way of Choi’s plans to move forward with a blank-check merger based on false information.

“Choi became obsessed not with making the perfect automobile to resurrect De Tomaso and to serve the company’s discerning clients, but instead with trying to take the company public through a bogus SPAC process,” Berris said in the complaint.

Berris claims he’s owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and a 10% stake in the company that was once valued at as much as $1.5 billion.

The press office for De Tomaso didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Choi couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

De Tomaso, best-known for the Mangusta and Pantera sports coupes it introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, filed for bankruptcy in 2004. Rights to its name were eventually acquired by Choi and a partner in 2014.

According to Berris, Choi reached out to him shortly thereafter, and the two met at a racetrack in Spain. At the time, Berris was working for Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (SCG), a US manufacturer of high-performance racing and road cars whose SCG007 hypercar would go on to take the podium at Le Mans in 2022.

“Desperate to avoid failure, Norman Choi pleaded with Berris to take over the company and create a world-class, credible revival of the famed De Tomaso brand,” Berris’s lawyers at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP wrote in his complaint.

Berris says he agreed and went on to develop the P72, which was unveiled at the 2019 Goodwood Festival. An homage to the De Tomaso P70, a 1965 legendary prototype co-developed by Alejandro De Tomaso and Carroll Shelby, the new car with a $1 million base price proved a sensation and, within a few days, received more legitimate purchase inquiries than the planned 72-unit limited run, according to the suit. 

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