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Originally published October 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Page modified October 15, 2014 at 7:50 AM

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Cash-poor Bill the Butcher paid for CEO’s fancy Queen Anne home

The company reported in January 2013 that “commencing in September 2012, we lease our corporate facilities from J’Amy Owens” for $10,000 a month, but didn’t disclose it was the five-bedroom house she was trying to buy.


Seattle Times deputy business editor

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Cash-strapped Bill the Butcher, which closed its six Seattle-area meat shops last week, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over two years to help CEO J’Amy Owens buy the five-bedroom Queen Anne view home she and her family lived in, making payments the publicly traded company portrayed as a lease of “corporate facilities,” according to court records and regulatory filings.

Owens occupied the century-old, 4,560-square-foot house on West Galer Street in September 2012. She signed a purchase agreement that let her defer most of the $2 million-plus sale price for eight months, meanwhile paying $90,000 by year-end 2012, then $10,000 a month. An additional $80,000 payment further extended the purchase deadline.

In documents for a lawsuit filed this summer to dislodge her from the Queen Anne home when she didn’t complete the deal, property owner John Benvenuto said “all payments towards the purchase price of the home had been made by Bill the Butcher Inc. rather than directly from Owen.”

Based on the sales agreement filed with Benvenuto’s lawsuit, those payments appear to total at least $350,000.

Stockholders in Bill the Butcher may not have been given key facts about the arrangement, judging by filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company reported in January 2013 that “commencing in September 2012, we lease our corporate facilities from J’Amy Owens” for $10,000 a month in a five-year lease. The company also said it paid her a $20,000 “nonrefundable security deposit.”

Another filing this past January disclosed in vague language that the company “made additional payments of $100,000 to secure tenancy of the premises.”

But the filings don’t divulge the location or nature of the “corporate facilities.” In January, the company also added the tidbit that the leased property “includes two residential housing units.”

Nowhere did the company disclose to shareholders that its “corporate facilities” were where Owens lived with her family: a 5.75-bath Craftsman-style house with a detached studio unit, in one of Seattle’s poshest residential neighborhoods.

A recent listing by Ewing & Clark, a marketer of high-end homes, said the property includes a “breathtaking main home, romantic ‘tower’ apartment, and authentic Japanese tea house.”

To extend her purchase agreement’s June 2013 expiration date by a year, Owens was required to make an option payment of $80,000. According to Benvenuto’s statement, that payment was among those made by Bill the Butcher.

The lawsuit says Benvenuto’s sale of the house to Owens was scheduled to close June 30, but “Owens failed to appear” at the closing. He filed the suit July 10 in King County Superior Court, seeking to evict her.

Eleven days later, the company informed its investors it had lined up “new office space for Bill the Butcher’s corporate activities” and would move shortly.

On Sunday, a moving van was at the house and workers appeared to be removing items. Robert Marconi, the attorney representing Benvenuto, said a settlement agreement with Owens made last Thursday the deadline to finish the purchase or move.

Neither Owens nor her attorney in the case responded to calls seeking comment.

Owens is Bill the Butcher’s CEO, chief financial officer and only board member, as well as its controlling shareholder with about 17 percent of its common stock and all its preferred stock.

According to a regulatory filing last month, Bill the Butcher pays Owens $96,000 a year in salary, and in 2013 awarded her 2 million shares of preferred stock valued at $60,000.

The company, co-founded by Owens in 2009, pitches its products as sustainable and organic. But it has never been profitable, and has been unable to complete the expansion deals it announced, including a 10-store Portland rollout and the acquisition of a Montana cattle ranch.

The chain lost nearly $3.3 million on sales of $1.3 million for the nine months ended May 31, according to its latest quarterly filing. Trading as a bulletin board stock, the shares sold for $1.50 or more in 2010, but recently they’ve been at a couple pennies.

Last week, signs went up on its six stores in Seattle, Edmonds, Woodinville and Redmond, notifying customers they were “closed until further notice due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Rami Grunbaum: 206-464-8541 or rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com



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