Competing Richmond trolley tour operators are mired in a legal battle, with one accusing the other of stealing trade secrets and hijacking confidential customer information.
The owners of the two trolley companies are former business partners who also run competing Segway tour businesses in Richmond.
The charges are detailed in a lawsuit filed in Richmond Circuit Court this month by John Moulton of Richmond Trolley Co., which has been providing tours of the rubber-wheeled variety since 2011.
In the lawsuit, Moulton accuses Charles Ward — who owns half of the company — of secretly purchasing his own trolley and launching a competing tour company, RVA Trolley LLC. The split allegedly followed disagreements about how Richmond Trolley, which the two launched jointly, should be run.
Moulton is suing for $350,000 in damages and liabilities. He argues in the lawsuit that Ward's operation of RVA Trolley violates the operating agreement that both men signed when they launched Richmond Trolley. The lawsuit also asks a judge to dissolve Ward's affiliation with Richmond Trolley and to order RVA Trolley to cease competing with Richmond Trolley.
RichmondBizSense.com first reported on the rift between the two men in early November, when Moulton and Ward were trying to dissolve what Moulton described as a "toxic relationship." Since Moulton filed suit Feb. 8, the men declined comment to Style Weekly, citing the pending nature of the litigation and advice from their lawyers.
According to BizSense, Moulton bailed Ward out when his Segway dealership and tour company, Segway of Richmond, lost its insurance following a rapid succession of injury-related lawsuits. From there, a business relationship developed, and the two launched Richmond Trolley.
Now, Ward operates his new trolley company out of Segway of Richmond while Moulton has opened a competing Segway shop, River City Segs, and has taken control of Richmond Trolley's fleet of five buses.
But Moulton says Richmond Trolley is failing because of unfair competition with RVA Trolley and because of Ward, who siphoned off potential sales while attempting to conceal that he was competing with Richmond Trolley. The suit also alleges that Ward refuses to relinquish control of some of Richmond Trolley's bank accounts as well as the company's domain name, Richmondtrolley.com.
Ward has yet to file a formal response to the lawsuit.