North Carolina boat builders sue each other

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The head of Winter Custom Yachts is being sued by the company’s co-founder in North Carolina. The builder, which last summer took over the old Hatteras facility in Swansboro, was founded by William Copeland and Timothy Winters.

According to the Triangle Business Journal, Copeland has filed a complaint in North Carolina Business Court alleging that Winters “has mismanaged the corporate business by holding himself out to be the sole owner and incorporator.”

Winters denied the claims through his attorney, telling the paper they "have no factual or legal basis whatsoever." He has filed a countersuit that also seeks damages.

"Mr. Winters has at all times managed the operations of Winter Custom Yachts in a lawful and ethical manner throughout his many years as a successful business owner," Winters’ attorney told the paper. "Mr. Winters and Winter Custom Yachts will assert absolute factual and legal defenses to all of Mr. Copeland’s claims, and they plan to seek damages and equitable remedies in their own counterclaims against Mr. Copeland. Mr. Winters looks forward to continuing to build best-in-class custom watercraft and providing outstanding customer service."

Copeland’s lawsuit included claims of “breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, and unfair or deceptive trade practices” by Winters.

The lawsuit contends that after the company was launched in 2006, with both parties owning 50 percent stakes, the pair “disagreed on management and finances." Copeland alleges in his complaint that Winters used corporate funds for “personal use,” according to the paper, thereby breaching his fiduciary duties. “Winters has used corporate facilities and corporate employees to build boats from which he personally received all profits, with the corporation receiving no benefit from such acts,” Copeland claims in the complaint. He has asked the court to award punitive damages.

Winters denies all charges in his countersuit. The only thing that the two parties agree on, adds Winters’ attorney, is that they are “deadlocked… and there is no means by which to break the deadlock.”

Winter Custom Yachts builds 64-ft. custom sportfishing boats. According to its website, the company has about 30 employees.


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