ATK v. Chris Kimball: Fact and Fiction

Chris Kimball Claim ATK “refuses to commit to Kimball’s future employment”
True or False? false
The real story

Kimball threatened to leave if ATK did not give him a lifetime contract and more money.

Though ATK never agreed to Kimball’s demands, the company sought to continue to keep Kimball in his role as the creative leader and its public face, making good faith efforts to sign him to a contract to stay.

Evidence

In an e-mail from Eliot Wadsworth to Kimball, Wadsworth stated, “It is inconceivable that any board could seriously consider offering a no cut contract . . .”

Kimball demanded an increase in pay, causing Wadsworth to write, “Your request for more money absolutely astonished me. You presently take home 25% of every dollar this company earns, and that does not include the value of your equity or your sale interest.”

Wadsworth added, “Re: a contract for your continued service, I should say that we want to enjoy the benefits of your unique gifts for as long as they are available.  As the same time, it will be obvious to you, as it is to me, that there can be no contract that commits absolutely and without condition that you run the business for as long as you want.”

Kimball threatened to leave ATK if his demands weren’t met.

Chris Kimball Claim ATK “directs Kimball to leave”
True or False? false
The real story

ATK and Kimball agreed to hire a CEO to run the day-to-day operations of the company, and Kimball participated in ATK’s search for this CEO. ATK made clear to Kimball that it wanted him to remain the public face and creative leader of ATK.

Evidence

In fact, in an e-mail from Wadsworth to Kimball on Aug. 26, 2015, Wadsworth states: “…you have not been asked to leave…. you gave us, on several separate occasions, an ultimatum that you required a ten year, no conditions contract and more money or you would leave…. You were told repeatedly that the board could never agree to that….”

Chris Kimball Claim Kimball’s employment compensation had not changed since approximately 2003
True or False? false
The real story

Kimball’s compensation had nearly tripled in that time.

Evidence

Kimball’s compensation dramatically increased over time. By way of comparison, in 2003, Kimball’s earned approximately $480,000 in compensation, while in 2014, he earned over $1.1 million in compensation.  In addition, Kimball received distributions from the company that tripled during that same time period, and that brought his total take-home pay to over $4 million.  By the time he demanded a raise in June 2015, he was taking home approximately 25% of every dollar earned by ATK.

Chris Kimball Claim Kimball began looking for office space at ATK’s directive
True or False? false
The real story

He was looking for space for his own business.

Evidence

E-mails from Kimball’s assistant show he is not looking for space for himself, but rather for a full replication of ATK, specifically, 8,000-12,000 square feet to accommodate “50 people” and a “test kitchen.” Kimball was looking for kitchen space by representing to the brokers that it was for “America’s Test Kitchen.” In September, Kimball is telling his IT consultant he plans on “building out a major kitchen” soon.

Chris Kimball Claim ATK acknowledged and accepted the competitive nature of Kimball’s new business
True or False? false
The real story

ATK expected the new company would be producing content for ATK.

Evidence

In e-mails to Kimball, George Denny, an ATK board member, writes that in an agreement, ATK “will pay you handsomely and require a non-compete, non-poach and non-disparagement contract.”  In addition, Denny writes, “Since I am assuming your new company’s other activities will not be competitive with (ATK), you should assume that (ATK) is potentially one of your most interested investors and supporters.”
 
A later e-mail from Denny states they look forward to a “mutually supportive, long-term collaboration.”