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russo and steele

SCOTTSDALE – Forced to defend their integrity and reputation for excellence, the owners of the Russo and Steele classic car auction have taken legal action against Ritchie Bros/Leake Auctions, filing a lawsuit that accuses Ritchie/Leake of targeting their business and longstanding business partnerships in a malicious effort to takeover Russo and Steele’s premium auction venue at Salt River Fields.

The lawsuit, filed June 10th in Maricopa County Superior Court, details how Russo and Steele’s billion-dollar, publicly held competitor allegedly engaged in “inequitable, unjust and irregular business conduct” – including enlisting a key Russo and Steele contractor – to undermine Russo and Steele business relationships and leave the family-owned business without a prime location for its January 2020 auction in Scottsdale.

“No sane person relishes the massive expense and anguish of going to court to seek justice,” said Drew Alcazar, Russo and Steele’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “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.”

The legal filing, which seeks millions in damages (attached), follows a months-long review of communications and business documents exchanged among the defendants, including Ritchie/Leake executives and the now-former Russo and Steele Director of Operations. The lawsuit depicts a malevolent effort to enrich the defendants at the expense of Russo and Steele, by undermining the relationship between the auction and its host site on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and by forcing Russo and Steele to spend massive resources on relocation and marketing.

The alleged conduct parallels previous anti-competitive conduct by Ritchie Bros, which in 2013 was hit with a mutli-million-dollar civil judgement for similarly targeting another competitor auction business. Ritchie Bros/Leake Auctions, which employs more than 1,200 people, is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The Canada-based corporation claimed revenues of $1.17 billion last year.

“We aren’t going to be bullied,” said Alcazar. “We are adamantly determined to defend our business because of what it means to us and because of it what it means to tens of thousands of Russo and Steele fans, vendors and sponsors who make our auction events so special.”

The January 2020 Scottsdale auction, set for January 15th to 19th, will mark the company’s 20th anniversary – and it will happen as scheduled, said Alcazar.

“We have a number of solid options before us and we intend to make an announcement soon,” Alcazar explained. “The 20th anniversary of Russo and Steele is a tremendous milestone for our team and our family. We’re locked and loaded to make 2020 the biggest, best auction we’ve ever staged.”

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