Natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets is facing a lawsuit filed by its co-founders and former board members, Michael C. Gilliland and his wife, Elizabeth C. Cook.
The couple claim that Wild Oats failed to pay them $2 million owed on a demand promissory note. The former CEO and his wife loaned the $2 million cash to the company in January 2001.
Wild Oats Markets said it had withheld payment of the note until it had resolved an ongoing dispute with Gilliland and Cook regarding sums owed by them to the company.
Gilliland and Cook founded Wild Oats in 1987. Cook served as executive vice president of the company until May 2001, and Gilliland stepped down from his position as CEO early in 2001. Both continued to serve on the company's board of directors until December 2001, when they resigned to diversify their stock portfolio.
The lawsuit comes as Wild Oats begins a major promotional campaign designed to "introduce customers to the delicious and healthful benefits of natural and organic foods."
The retailer has formed a partnership with Suray Promotions and created the Celebrate a World of Taste demo programme which will run in 73 of the company's Wild Oats Natural Marketplace and Nature's stores throughout March 2002.
The demos will include a wide variety of in-store product demonstrations available to customers from all departments and are designed to help educate consumers about the attributes of natural and organic foods.