Their once jovial relationship has become a fiery crash, with debris strewn across courtrooms and cable television, and now the two personalities who made “Windy City Rehab” a hit have agreed to seek an unbiased observer to sift through and sort out the wreckage.
An attorney representing Donovan Eckhardt filed an emergency motion in Cook County court last week asking a judge to allow a third party to take control of and provide a full accounting of the limited liability companies that he and Alison Victoria — whose real name is Alison Victoria Gramenos — created to purchase and renovate homes featured on the HGTV show. The two rehabbed at least 11 homes in the first season of the show and partnered on several more before their relationship went bust.
And the motion contains an admission: the splashy, remodeled homes weren’t big money makers.
“Ultimately, each of the renovation projects at the properties went over budget,” it reads. “The projected profits did not materialize once the properties began to sell.”
According to the motion, Victoria is on board with the request and agrees a receiver is needed because their relationship “has deteriorated” and “the two are currently unable to effectively communicate or cooperatively manage” their shared interests.
“Ms. Gramenos seeks to wind down her business entanglement with Mr. Eckhardt in a professional manner. The motion for receiver is a cooperative effort between Ms. Gramenos and Mr. Eckhardt towards that end,” her attorney, Daniel Lynch, said in an email sent Friday.
The latest legal maneuver was in response to a lawsuit brought by a north suburban man and his family who invested $3 million in the pair’s reality TV venture and are now seeking to claw back funds. They accused Victoria and Eckhardt of gross mismanagement that resulted in “bungling” nearly every home flipping project they took on.
Both have denied the allegations in the suit but say they need a neutral party to help them split up.
“Mr. Eckhardt is moving on from his previous business relationship, and both he and Ms. Gramenos are in agreement that the appointment of a receiver is the most appropriate and professional means to wrap up their business,” Eckhardt’s attorney, James Skyles, said in an email.
Legal move ‘a joke,’ opposing attorney says
The lawsuit was filed last summer by Michael Ward Jr. — a Lake County resident and onetime friend of Eckhardt — his brother Thomas Ward, also of Lake County, and their father, Michael Ward Sr., a Cook County resident.
“I think it’s a joke,” attorney John F. Kennedy, who represents the Wards, said of the emergency motion.
“I think the fact that Ms. Gramenos and Mr. Eckhardt are seeking a receiver for an accounting over the very company they control is a sham and a pretext to hide their misconduct. It’s shameful and designed to hide their own breaches of fiduciary duties they owe to the Ward family.”
Kennedy said the real “question is, what did Gramenos and Eckhardt do with the $3 million the Wards provided to them for the rehab projects? Will they voluntarily turn over their financial records to a receiver and account for the money[?]” His suspicion: not until “hell freezes over.”
Victoria’s attorney fired back, calling the accusations “head spinning.”
“The Wards’ accusation that Ms. Gramenos has withheld financial records that pertain to the Donovan Eckhardt projects from them is simply false,” Lynch said in an email. “Even before their baseless claims against her were filed, Ms. Gramenos willingly produced hundreds of pages of financial records on those projects; she has no more, and hell is still hot.”
Should a receiver be allowed to take over the two one-time “Windy City Rehab” co-hosts’ business affairs, the motion requests that he or she be charged with hiring a new attorney to defend their limited liability companies because their previous attorney quit.
Despite agreeing the two need a neutral third party to resolve their differences, Victoria has not changed her tune on Eckhardt.
During episodes of Season Two, Victoria labeled Eckhardt an untrustworthy villain, an unreliable builder and a cheat who pocketed construction funds.
“Ms. Gramenos stands by the truthfulness of her statements made on the air in WCR Season 2. The fact that these truthful statements make Mr. Eckhardt uncomfortable is reflective of what he knows about his own conduct,” Lynch said Friday.
For his part, Eckhardt has denied the allegations; he filed a separate defamation lawsuit against the show’s producers that seeks $2.2 million. He has since parted ways with the show.