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Published: Wednesday, 10/13/2010

Ex-chief fights local specialty drinks maker

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Brian Pearson, 35, maintains he has legal agreements with the southeast Michigan company that were violated after he resigned in October, 2009.

"I haven't gone into legal battle with them yet," Mr. Pearson said. "It was not something that I wanted to do."

In a letter he sent to Temperance Distilling CEO Branch Springer and the company's board, he says the Michigan business violated terms of a promissory note, a severance agreement, and an incentive agreement after he resigned last year. He declined to say how much he is owed.

Gregg Peppel, corporate counsel for the company, said Mr. Pearson left the company voluntarily, and confirmed that he had a severance agreement with the company. He declined to discuss the company or Mr. Pearson's dispute.

Temperance board members include Larry Davenport, owner of Davenport, Hanf & Co. LLC, a Perrysburg accounting firm.

Neither Mr. Springer nor board members contacted by The Blade Wednesday would comment.

Mr. Pearson's company was founded in 1998 as BPNC Distillery Inc. in Toledo and was best known for its alcohol-laden gelatin shots called Zippers. That product faced criticism from Ohio's Liquor Control Board; Hope Taft, the wife of former Gov. Bob Taft, and groups against underage drinking, which claimed the product resembled nonalcoholic gelatin products and posed a threat to children.

The company, then based in Ohio, was raided in 2002 by state and local officials. They took their case against BPNC to a Lucas County grand jury, but failed to win an indictment.

Mr. Pearson moved the firm to Michigan in 2006 and changed its name.

Mr. Pearson said, after several disagreements with the board, he left after the board hired Mr. Springer. "I'm not sticking around after 12 years if I'm not the boss," Mr. Pearson said.

Molly Pearson, Mr. Pearson's wife, is a vice president at the company. She declined comment. Mr. Pearson, who is one of 13 Temperance shareholders, said he and his wife agreed that she should stay with the firm after his departure.

Mr. Pearson now owns a marketing company called Pearson & Pearson LLC in Genoa. The company, which has five employees, works with several Temperance Distilling clients, including Zippers, Sharkwater, Cream, and Adult Chocolate Milk.

Contact Sheena Harrison at:

sharrison@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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