Three former executives of Christensen Shipyards filed a countersuit against Henry Luken last week

The founder and former executives of Christensen Shipyards have filed a lawsuit alleging that its current owner is a “corporate raider” who pilfered company assets before taking over the builder.

Christensen filed its countersuit against Henry Luken, a longtime Christensen customer and former part owner, who took control over the company last year. Luken recently filed a lawsuit against founder David Christensen, as well as two executives Joe Foggia and Pat Withee, for US$22m.

In last week’s countersuit against Luken, the three former Christensen officials are suing Luken for US$17.2m. The lawsuit accused Luken of “preying on the Christensen family for his own financial gain by stealing the company they spent decades building, putting hundreds of people out of work and destroying the family’s reputation in Southwest Washington.” They allege that Luken forced the company into receivership so he could buy it at a bargain price.

“Henry Luken insinuated his way into the company, took over control as a financier, as a board member, and found ways everywhere he could to take advantage of it, to the detriment of the company’s welfare and his employees,” Kerry Shepherd, the lawyer for the Christensen family, told The Columbian.

Render: Christensen 50m Custom Series

Render: Christensen 50m Custom Series

In his March lawsuit against the Christensen officials, Luken contended that the executives’ mismanagement contributed to the financial ruin of the shipyard. The yard in Vancouver, Washington, went into receivership and was shut down briefly in 2014 and 2015, before being acquired by Luken for US$5.5m.

“I don’t think they could tell the truth if they knew what the truth was,” Luken told the Times-Free Press regarding the countersuit. He added that every time he has gone up against the former Christensen officials, he has won the case. He purchased the shipyard with the Washington state-appointed receiver’s approval and “we have 130 people back to work again.”

Luken also built a 400,000sq ft shipyard thousands of miles away in Tennessee in 2006. That eight-storey structure remains idle. The countersuit contends that Luken wanted to convince the Christensen family to move the yard to Tennessee, but David Christensen refused. “The Christensen Yacht building is just standing there, there hasn’t been anything done with it since they stopped construction on it,” Ron Hammontree, executive director of the Tennessee Reservoir Development Agency, told the Times Free-Press. “Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll see them building yachts over there.”

Luken told the paper that he’d like to build boats in Tennessee, where he is based, but has his hands full with other ventures.