You know, you set up a blog as a journalist and before you know it, everyone’s pitching story ideas to you. I’ve had about 15 emails from one guy who wants me to explain his continuing life story to the world.
Last week, I got an email from Karl Khan, who (assuming this isn’t someone claiming to be Karl Khan) has been involved in some legal struggles with the easyJet people over the use of the easyPizza name. According to him, the full story has yet to be heard, although it’s been on the Beeb and other sites.
Now, I’m completely the wrong sort of journalist for this kind of article, but if someone would like to investigate the story instead, I’ve provided the details below.
Note to the libel lawyers: I have no idea if any of this is true – this is purely what Karl Khan’s sent me. It may all be completely fabricated, but I’m putting it up here so that others can make that determination for themselves.
Full story of Sir Stelios loses case against EasyPizza
The abbreviated story has featured on BBC news 24, Sky news, BBC radio 4 Today, radio 5 live,
Daily Mail, Evening Standard, The Times, Metro, as well as local newspapers, RSS news feeds, etc
In 1997 I started the business based at West Green Road N15 trading as EasyPizza.
I advertised in Yellow Pages, Talking Pages and door to door leaflets as well as sign writing and point of sale.
In February 2003 I was contacted by Mr Eddy Whatt of easyGroup who asked me if he could buy the domain name easypizza.co.uk. He offered me £400. I declined his offer informing him that the domain was used in conjunction with my existing business EasyPizza a pizza delivery and wine bar / restaurant business originally started in 1997 in Haringey, London. He told me he would be willing to offer me £1000 but that would be the domain and the limited company and rebranding. I informed that I was not interested. The name EasyPizza was important to me, nevertheless the offer of £1000 was a derisory offer as it didn’t cover even to cost of hosting a domain let alone printing new leaflets / advertising / sign writing etc.
After this several letters and faxes were exchanged but nothing resolved. Then in mid 2003 investigators employed by easyGroup started visiting our premises / our suppliers / an accountant although not our company accountant / our home addresses etc. And these visits happened many times over the next two years.
These reports were all part of the trial documents and can be made available to you should you require for corroboration.
Also in 2003 they registered a company called Easypizza (UK) Limited. We already had a company called Easypizza Limited. So it is plain that their press release which states that they ‘were only recently aware of our existence’ is nonsense
In December 2004 they opened their own easyPizza and served us with the High Court summons soon after.
During the course of the trial Stelios claimed he had the exclusive right to the ‘easy’ brand name and that by using the name ‘easypizza’ we were infringing on his ‘easy’ brand primarily in the form ‘easyJet’ which had started in 1995 and predated me by two years. In proceedings I argued that yes ‘easyJet’ did predate me but there was no similarity in the get up between the two companies, one was an airline and one a pizza takeaway, and indeed the words ‘easyJet’ and ‘easypizza’ are not the same. I argued that it was in fact Stelios in starting his own ‘easypizza’ business in December 2004 who was in fact infringing on my goodwill and passing off from me.
My easypizza uses a blue and golden yellow logo with a handwritten font. Stelios uses a bold font with an orange and white get up.
So it is wrong of easyGroup to issue a release stating otherwise. And court documents confirm this.
Stelios denies intimidation. However, during the trial, he approached my printer and offered them a contract; he sent his investigators to speak to my witnesses at their home addresses. This IS considered contempt of court or harassment of witnesses because the only place you can speak to witnesses is in the dock at court not at home a few days before the trial is due to take place. Indeed some witnesses were threatened and reported the matter to my solicitors Memory Crystal. While others felt uncomfortable and withdrew their support. So intimidation of witnesses took place and my solicitor David Hansel can confirm this.
In terms of bullying. Well on 14.02.2006 I had a meeting at the offices of Stelios at Gloucester Crescent in Camden. At about 6pm – 7.30pm. I sat in a small office with Stelios and two of his staff. The meeting was quite a cordial and relaxed meeting at first. Stelios told me his idea was for me to become an easypizza franchisee of his and he would drop the case against me. His model for the easypizza business was one of him supplying existing pizza restaurants with frozen pizzas at a cost of £2.35 each and then re heating them in a conveyor oven and selling them to the customers at a cost of £5.50 each. I said this was a non starter I argued that the idea of a pizza shop is for the pizza to be freshly made by hand, freshly baked and delivered fresh to the client. If the client understood that I / we were supplying a re heated frozen pizza which arrived 30-45 minutes later then common sense would suggest he would simply take a goodfellas pizza out of his freezer and stick it in the oven at home and eat that. Taking the argument further I said similarly why would an easypizza franchisee buy a frozen pizza from him for £2.35 when they could go down to ASDA and buy one for 99p or so. I also explained to Stelios that in fact it cost very little to make a pizza, because it is mostly flour and tomato and cheese and in fact the most a pizza costs is 50p to make including the box. Stelios then explained his boxes were not included in the £2.35 deal but for a limited period if we agreed to accept his franchise he would reduce the charge to £1.99 to me and throw in a free box. I stated that his franchise idea was a dead parrot and I could see any commercial justification to accept it. He then sweetened it by offering me a pizza oven on a rental basis at a cost of £10 per month and also he wanted me to accept frozen pizzas instead of cash as part of a settlement offer. It was ridiculous and again I said I would consider it but couldn’t see any commercial logic for his business model. He also said to me that he had a call centre in India and I would have to share the cost of. Again I said why would a pizza takeaway need a call centre in India, I would rather handle my own calls. I realised that Stelios was attempting to cut a deal with me but it was such a ridiculous and far fetched deal. Accepting overpriced frozen pizzas instead of hard cash
And me a franchisee of his wearing an orange hat and an orange uniform was hardly a sweet deal. So I declined. Stelios could not understand why I rejected such a “good opportunity” as he called it.
He then moved on to ask me bluntly “why when easyGroup first served me with high court papers why didn’t I rebrand immediately.”
I responded by saying well I have been using the name for many years and am quite attached to it so I wasn’t planning to rebrand despite the threat of court action, he then said “well most people we serve with summons just disappear or rebrand and it never has to come to this.” I understood from this that he had probably done this to hundreds of people before and most had simply capitulated straight away. He really could not understand why I had put up such a struggle. The reality was ofcourse that once a case started I could not withdraw. You see whoever backs down first of a court case like this is liable for the whole of the other parties costs, which in his case were about £350,000.00 at that stage because I was sent the warning because they also were applying for security of casts orders, unless orders, throwing out of evidence orders, almost every couple of weeks which was cranking up the costs all the time as each time it had to be contested. Easygroups costs were probably £500,000.00 at the end because they had a QC barrister and two solicitors firms as well as in house solicitors. My costs were £135,000 at the end.
So the truth is I could not back down otherwise I would have been liable for all of my costs as well as all of theirs as well. And that would have not only meant closure of my business but bankruptcy as well and loss of my house which I had to re mortgage to finance my legal fees anyway.
Now in my opinion this is bully boy tactics and stelios is a big bully with deep pockets.
The case finally finished two days before the trial suddenly stelios served a notice of discontinuation.
Then was the haggling over the court order and the subsequent consent order.
The situation now is we have a consent order signed personally by stelios guaranteeing us protection from further similar action, protection from easygroup moving into North London, and an order paying the full costs of the high court action. There is no restriction on easypizza opening new branches or selling over the internet or limiting ourselves to a very narrow geographical area as stelios press release seems to imply. The only think we have consented to do is not use the colour orange , not use a big ‘P’ and small ‘e’ as in easyPizza and not use the cooper black fat font typeface. I was happy to consent to all of these because we were not doing any of these and I guess they were the crumb of comfort for stelios to say that we had consented to do something I suppose.
The situation now. Well to date stelios has not paid a penny. I am owed £135,000 and interest is payable on that by stelios since February 2006. In fact the main reason to go public is to put pressure on him to cough up because the present situation is putting me and my business under great strain and debts have to be serviced. If payment is not made I will be forced to apply for a debt to be registered and send in the bailiffs to collect. But again that will cost money. If that happens then I am sure the newspapers will go heavy on the story again.
Recently Stelios was evicted from his Milton Keynes cinema for non payment of rent so I don’t think that his finances are that strong at present. I have seen his companies accounts and over the last few years the companies easyInternet, easyGroup, easyCinema, easyHotel, easyCruise, easyCar, easyPizza, easyWatches, easyValue, easy4men, easyMobile, easyMoney have had accumulated losses of £300,000,000.00 since 1999. All the accounts are a matter of public record. I noticed when I read these accounts that Stelios home address is listed as Shangri-La, 11 Boulevard Albert ler, Monte Carlo, Monaco. My solicitor told me he is a tax exile but I am curious does that not mean that he can only get an Honorary Knighthood as opposed to a full knighthood?
The reason we have made this story public is because many people have been taken to court such as easyArt, easyMaterials, easy-jet (an ink jet cartridge supplier), easy-mobile, easytaxi, but they have all usually been forced to sign confidentiality agreements with easyGroup. We have not had to do this because easyGroup have not paid us a penny yet. We are making a stand for the many people put out of business by stelios over the last 8 years who we believe is a bully who loves taking people to court as a form of sport.
Please use this as you feel appropriate. I believe this will make a good story for a Sunday paper to run perhaps?
High Court Case #HC05C00707
For further information regarding EasyPizza, please contact:
EasyPizza Ltd | 48 Topsfield Parade | London N8 8PT
Tel 07970 162508 | email [email protected]
For further information regarding Memery Crystal please contact
Memery Crystal LLP solicitors | 44 Southampton Buildings | London WC2A 1AP
Tel 020 7242 5905 | Fax 020 7242 2058