Ferran Adrià, the famous Catalan chef whose elBulli was considered the world's best restaurant for five years, is being sued by the heirs of a former business associate who claim he cheated their father.
The sons of Miquel Horta Almaraz, a well-known Catalan philanthropist, are accusing Adrià and another business partner, Juli Soler, of buying their father's share of elBulli for a "laughable" amount back in 2005. They also claim that their father, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was easily duped into letting go of his 20 percent of the business for less than it was worth, and that Adrià and Soler deliberately kept him in the dark about the profits made through parallel businesses associated with elBulli.
The lawsuit, which was initially brought in June 2008, will go to court on October 29, 30 and 31 of this year. "This is the fifth time the story has made the news," noted Adrià, who temporarily closed down elBulli last year to conduct research work. "Until now, all the complaints have been dismissed, but when the trial takes place we will see who is right."
Soler, for his part, said that "this is old news," and that "we have turned the page."
Jofre and Sergi Horta allegedly do not seek economic compensation from Adrià and Soler, but for the sale to be considered void. Their father, a known sponsor of artists and writers like Vázquez Montalbán, joined forces with both chefs in the mid-1990s, putting up 600,000 euros, or 85 percent of the capital that turned elBulli into a global beacon for gastronomy gurus. In 2005, Horta sold his share of the restaurant to Adrià and Soler for 1.2 million euros. But his sons hold that "it was worth 15 or 20 times more."
French publications Le Monde and L'Express have suggested the lawsuit is the real reason why Adrià decided to shut down elBulli, although other sources write this off as an example of French resentment at being bumped down by Spain as the world's gastronomic powerhouse.