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Just a week after Archie Comics Co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater sued to remove Nancy Silberkleit as a director and co-CEO, a New York judge has barred her from entering the company’s offices, or performing any work for the 73-year-old publisher.
The temporary restraining order was issued by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich in response to charges that Silberkleit ignored a Nov. 28 injunction prohibiting her from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.
Goldwater’s lawsuit insists “the ink was barely dry” on Kornreich’s previous order when Silberkleit violated it by having unnecessary contact with staff. According to the New York Daily News, Silberkleit acknowledged under oath Tuesday that she contacted freelance writers about participating in an anti-bullying comic announced last week.
“I thought it was a good idea to do a book about bullying, because I’m right here in the midst of it myself,” she testified. “I’m the one being harassed and abused here.”
Issuing the new order ahead of a Feb. 2 contempt hearing, Kornreich didn’t mince words: “She is not to do anything for Archie Comics Productions.”
The decree is only the latest twist in an increasingly bitter struggle for control of the company that came to light in July, when Archie sued Silberkleit, seeking to remove her from its Mamaroneck, New York, offices because of what it described as “inappropriate and offensive language and behavior.” Silberkleit, who stepped into the co-CEO role in 2009 following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit, son of co-founder Louis Silberkleit, is accused of a pattern of threats and harassment that Archie claims amounts to “a pervasive, hostile work environment which is seriously and substantially impairing the company’s operations.”
Silberkleit, who as co-executor of her late husband’s estate, controls a 50 percent stake in the company, has denied making threatening or demeaning comments that might jeopardize Archie’s operations. She ontends Goldwater is a chauvinist who seeks to “gain complete corporate control of the company.”
Goldwater, son of Archie co-founder John Goldwater, owns 25 percent of the company’s shares and represents the other 25 percent held by the estate of his late brother, leaving the board of directors deadlocked on such key matters as outside investors. According to Goldwater’s lawsuit, Silberkleit has “repeatedly and emphatically said that she would never agree to any dilution of the Silberkleit 50 percent equity interest at any price and under any terms, conditions or circumstances.”
Her control of her late husband’s shares is in dispute, however, as the children from Michael Silberkleit’s first marriage are contesting their father’s last will, written while he was dying of cancer. Eugene Zuriff, an attorney named in that will as co-executor of the estate, also began proceedings earlier this month to strip Nancy Silberkleit of her authority to represent those shares.
“Whether Ms. Silberkleit, Nancy Silberkleit is really the person who should be here or even representative of the families is a huge question,” Kornreich said during an August hearing. “At this point it is questionable who owns the Silberkleit shares, but the company, frankly, is in chains. As far as I can see, if, in fact, Ms. Silberkleit stays, the company will probably be destroyed, which she doesn’t seem to care.”