Leake Auctions recently announced that it will be taking part in Arizona Auction Week in January 2020 with an event at Salt River Fields at Walking Stick. However, that had been auction house Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale home from 2017–19. Almost immediately, Russo and Steele owners Drew and Josephine Alcazar emailed an “Insider Alert” to notify clients and friends that a lawsuit was in the works.
That lawsuit was filed on June 10 in Maricopa County (Arizona) Superior Court. It alleges that Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (Canada)/Leake Auction Company (Oklahoma) engaged in “inequitable, unjust, and irregular business conduct… in violation of their own Code of Conduct and Ethics” to undermine Russo and Steele’s business relationship with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which owns Salt River Fields.
Leake executives Gary and Muffy Bennett are also named in the suit, as is Mark Landolfi, who had been Russo and Steele’s director of operations. The suit alleges Landolfi conspired against Russo to help Leake secure the Salt River Fields sports complex venue. Russo terminated its relationship with Landolfi in October 2018.
In a press release that accompanied the legal documents, Russo and Steele asserts that Leake is guilty of “contractual interference,” which has forced Russo to defend its “integrity and reputation for excellence.”
“No sane person relishes the massive expense and anguish of going to court to seek justice,” Drew Alcazar said in the release. “If we had lost our venue ‘fair and square,’ we wouldn’t have dreamed of filing suit. But that’s not what happened here. This wasn’t competition. This was predatory conduct aimed at destroying one of the marquee classic car auctions in the world, and it cannot be allowed to stand.”
Russo and Steele is seeking punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to punish and deter similar conduct in the future.”
A Leake representative who answered a telephone call Tuesday declined to comment and referred inquiries to Ritchie Brothers’ headquarters in Legal, British Columbia. Ritchie Brothers ultimately declined to comment on legal matters. Chris Bonnell, director of marketing for Salt River Fields, also had no comment.
Alcazar says Russo and Steele will continue to be part of Arizona Auction Week, scheduled for January 15–19, but the company has not secured a venue. The 2020 event will be Russo’s 20th.