Tree House owners paid themselves in excess, cheated shareholder out of profits, lawsuit alleges

CHARLTON, Mass. — A minority shareholder is suing the two founders of Tree House Brewing Company, alleging in a lawsuit that the pair paid themselves in excess and concealed millions of dollars in real estate investments while cheating him out of profits.

Eric Granger, who holds 2% of the Charlton-based company, filed the lawsuit against Nathan P. Lanier and Damien L. Goudreau on Nov. 15 in Hampden Superior Court, documents indicate.

Tree House, a craft brewery loved by New Englanders and beer drinkers across the world, has five locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut with a sixth spot planned for Saratoga Springs, New York.

Beginning as a small micro-brewery in 2011, Tree House has grown exponentially over the years, attracting more than 1 million customers annually and holding eight of 30 highest rated beers in the world on BeerAdvovate.com, according to the lawsuit.

Despite Tree House’s great financial success, which has led to the acquisition of a golf course in Tewksbury that offers draft pours in a spacious clubhouse and a stunning oceanfront space on Cape Cod, Granger alleges in the suit that the majority of the company’s profits have been wrongfully pocketed by Lanier and Goudreau.

“Tree House contributes a combined annual economic impact of $143,000,000 across its four Massachusetts locations alone,” the suit states. “Despite Tree House’s impressive and sustained financial performance, Lanier and Goudreau continue to deprive Granger and, in the past, former minority shareholders, from enjoying any real financial benefit from their ownership stake, including historical refusal to issue dividends to shareholders.”

From 2017 through 2020, Lanier and Goudreau “engaged in a pattern and practice of paying excessive officer salaries and bonuses to themselves,” Granger alleges.

Granger claimed in the suit that salaries exceeded $4 million and that Lanier and Goudreau purchased “ultra-luxury” vehicles for their personal use, including a two 2019 Tesla Model 3s, a 2016 Ranger Rover Sport, a 2021 Mercedes GLC300, and a 2020 Audi Q8.

Granger alleges that he was deprived of dividend distributions, and that Lanier and Goudreau “engaged in a pattern and practice of improperly delaying or entirely withholding the disclosure of certain tax documentation,” making it difficult for him to assess the value of his shares.

The lawsuit also alleges that Lanier and Goudreau secretly created limited liability corporations in 2016 and 2018 known as “Landreau Realty” and “Pride and Purpose,” which amassed real estate holdings valued at more than $13 million “without offering any opportunity to Tree House or its shareholders.”

Between 2016 and 2021, the LLC’s were paid nearly $10 million, Granger alleges.

In 2022, Lanier and Goudreau agreed to transfer ownership of their interest in the LLC’s to Tree House after Granger served them with a “Shareholder Derivative Demand,” the documents show.

“Lanier and Goudreau directly and indirectly profited and are continuing to profit at the expense of Tree House and Granger, and Tree House and Granger have sustained and are continuing to sustain additional losses,” the lawsuit reads.

Granger also alleges in the lawsuit that this past year Tree House withheld issuing his IRS statement until April 2023 when it should have been sent by March 15, 2023.

“The delay caused Granger to incur tax penalties for failing to file his personal income taxes by the federal deadline of April 15, 2023,” the lawsuit states.

Granger has requested a jury trial and plans to seek more than $50,000 in damages.

Boston 25 News has reached out to Tree House for comment and is waiting to hear back.

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