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Car Charging Group, Inc. v. JNS Holding Corporation

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 24, 2013

Car Charging Group, Inc., a Nevada Corporation and 350 Holdings, LLC, a Florida limited liability company, Plaintiffs,
v.
JNS Holding Corporation, a Delaware Corporation, and JNS Power & Control Systems, Inc., an Illinois Corporation, Defendants, and JNS Power & Control Systems, Inc., an Illinois Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
350 Green, LLC, a Virginia limited liability company, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge.

These consolidated cases arise out of a dispute between Car Charging Group, Inc., and 350 Holdings, LLC, on the one hand (collectively, "CCGI"), and JNS Holding Corporation and JNS Power & Control (collectively, "JNS") on the other, over the ownership of certain assets previously owned by 350 Green, LLC. Each side contends that 350 Green entered into a valid and enforceable agreement to transfer the assets in question to it, with CCGI pointing to an equity exchange agreement dated March 8, 2013 (the "Exchange Agreement"), and its subsequent addenda, and JNS asserting an asset purchase agreement dated April 17, 2013 (the "APA").

Before me are cross-motions for partial summary judgment. In its motion, JNS seeks summary judgment of its claim against 350 Green for specific performance of the APA. CCGI seeks summary judgment of its claim for a declaratory judgment that the APA is void as a matter of law. For the reasons that follow, I grant JNS's motion and deny CCGI's.

I.

The entities embroiled in this dispute are all service providers for electric vehicle charging stations. In October of 2010, 350 Green, LLC, was awarded a City of Chicago grant for $1, 911, 000 to install a network of electric car charging stations in the Chicago Area (the "Chicago Project"). On June 14, 2012, the City of Chicago sent 350 Green a Notice of Default on the agreement governing the Chicago Project. Shortly thereafter, 350 Green and its Members, Mariana Gerzanych and Timothy Mason (the "350 Members") began negotiating with Car Charging Group, Inc. ("CCGI") for the sale of all of their membership interests in 350 Green to a newly-formed subsidiary of CCGI (later named "350 Holdings"). 350 Green retained Oracle Capital Securities to assist in the sale. Negotiations proceeded pursuant to two separate term sheets, signed in July and August of 2012, while CCGI conducted due diligence.

These negotiations culminated in the execution, on March 8, 2013, of the Exchange Agreement among CCGI, 350 Holdings, 350 Green, and the 350 Members. Pursuant to the Exchange Agreement, CCGI agreed to issue shares in CCGI stock to the 350 Members in exchange for the 350 Members' transfer to 350 Holdings of all of their membership interests in 350 Green. The Exchange Agreement provides that the transaction was to close after certain preconditions were met or waived and "no later than ten (10) business days after the Effective Date" of the agreement, or March 22, 2013.

As far as the record reveals, the deal was on track to close until March 21, 2013. On that date, counsel for 350 Green and the 350 Members sent fully executed closing documents to in-house counsel for CCGI. Counsel for CCGI confirmed receipt of these documents but indicated that she was "not yet authorized" to circulate CCGI's executed closing documents, emphasizing that the deal was "not yet closed." Counsel for 350 Green informed CCGI's counsel at that point that if the deal were not closed by the following day-the closing deadline provided in the Exchange Agreement-his clients would consider the transaction to be expired. JNS's L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. 6 at ¶ 5.[1] The next day-the closing deadline provided in the Exchange Agreement-CCGI's counsel sent 350 Green and the 350 Members a non-compete agreement along with an "addendum" to extend the closing date until the following Monday (March 25, 2013). Counsel for CCGI stated, "[w]e need both documents signed and returned before I will circulate [CCGI's CEO's] signature pages." JNS's L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh 9 at 1 [DN 35].

The remainder of the day came and went with no response from 350 Green or the 350 Members. By the following Monday, March 25, the 350 Members were describing the deal as "terminated, " see 3/25/2013 email of Tim Mason to Brian Howe, JNS's L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. 11 [4020 DN 35], and "cancelled." See 3/25/2013 email of Mariana Gerzanych to Craig Sultan et al., Farkas Decl., Exh. J at 92 [3124 DN 41-4]. Neither the non-compete nor the addendum was ever executed by 350 Green or its Members. But on Tuesday, March 26, with no further mention of these documents, CCGI's in-house counsel sent 350 Green and the 350 Members "the signature pages from CCGI necessary to close the acquisition of 350 Green by CCGI, " pursuant to the Exchange Agreement.

The ensuing days saw an exchange of emails among the parties, in which they discussed possible terms for an amended agreement, but none was reached. Finally, on April 9, 2013, CCGI and 350 Holdings filed an action in the Southern District of New York, seeking, among other things, to compel 350 Green and the 350 Members to close the transaction pursuant to the Exchange Agreement.

By then, however, 350 Green and the 350 Members were pursuing other opportunities, specifically 350 Green's sale to JNS of the "Chicago Assets, " i.e., the 219 electric car chargers (168 of which were already installed, and 51 of which remained to be installed) that were part of the Chicago Project. 350 Green and its Members reached an agreement with JNS on April 17, 2013, which they memorialized in the Asset Purchase Agreement (the "APA") of that date. Among the representations 350 Green made in the APA were that 350 Green had "the necessary power, authority, and capacity to enter into" the APA; that 350 Green was "the sole lawful owner of the [Chicago] Asset"; that 350 Green was not "in material default under any contract, lease or any other commitment whatsoever" that was likely to affect JNS adversely; and that 350 Green had "terminated all other prospective term sheets or proposals with any other entity, for the purchase of" the Chicago Assets. APA, JNS Cmplt., Exh. B, §§ 1.1, 1.2, 3.9(i), 3.9(ii).

The APA contemplated that the deal would close in two stages: first, upon signing the APA, which occurred on April 17, 2013; and second, when the contingencies set forth in the APA were satisfied on or about April 11, 2013. Id., § 2.12. The only contingency JNS was required to fulfill was to obtain the City of Chicago's acceptance of the terms and conditions set forth in the APA, including the assignment of the remaining benefits and obligations associated with the Chicago Project grant.[2] JNS obtained the City of Chicago's acceptance of the terms and conditions of the APA on April 30, 2013.

Between the time the APA was executed and the time JNS fulfilled this contingency for closing, however, CCGI and 350 Holdings settled their claims against 350 Green and the 350 Members in the New York action on April 22, 2013, when they signed an Addendum to the Equity Exchange Agreement (the "First Addendum").[3] The First Addendum amended the Exchange Agreement's March 22 closing date to April 22, 2013, and it also provided that the 350 Members would receive cash consideration, in addition to shares of CCGI stock, in exchange for their membership interests in 350 Green. As a condition for closing under the First Addendum, the 350 Members were required to sign, and did sign, an Exclusive Right of First Refusal Agreement. That agreement gave CCGI the right of first refusal to match the terms of any electric vehicle related business opportunities presented to the 350 Members for a twelve-month period beginning on April 22, 2013.

The First Addendum also provides that the audit of 350 Green set forth in Section 2.9.1 of the Exchange Agreement

shall officially commence on the Closing Date [of the First Addendum, i.e., April 22, 2013]. At the end of seventy-one (71) days [i.e., July 2, 2013], if the Audit has not been completed, the Exchange Agreement and this Exchange Addendum shall effectively terminate without notice and without the necessity for the Parties hereto to execute any further documentation to effectuate such ...

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