A judge today scheduled an early fall date for the long-delayed trial of a lawsuit that the owners of a defunct West Hollywood restaurant brought against an ex-con nightclub entrepreneur who has been romantically linked to various celebrities.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos — who is currently presiding over the trial of Katherine Jackson’s negligence-wrongful death suit against concert promoter AEG Live — scheduled the eatery case trial for Sept. 23, when the Jackson-AEG Live trial is expected to have concluded.
In December 2008, businesswoman Sandy Sachs and psychologist Robin Gans sued former Miami nightclub owner Chris Paciello over the remodeling and operation of Murano, alleging negligent misrepresentation, breach-of-contract and detrimental reliance.
The start of trial has been beset by numerous delays and the case will be nearly five years old when jury selection begins.
According to the Sachs-Gans court papers, Paciello — whose real name is Christian Ludwigsen — told them in June 2008 that he was interested in investing $600,000 in their restaurant in exchange for 50 percent of the company’s common stock.
But Sachs and Gans say they found out Paciello — who dated Madonna in the early 1990s and has also been romantically linked to actresses Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara, former MTV host Daisy Fuentes and models Niki Taylor and Naomi Campbell — was a felon and banned from owning stock in a business that sells alcohol.
Paciello, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, spent seven years in prison. In October 2000, he pleaded guilty to a 1993 murder and armed robbery for being the getaway driver in a home-invasion robbery in Staten Island, in which a housewife was fatally shot.
According to the lawsuit, Paciello agreed to lend Gans and Sachs $600,000 if they agreed to remodel Murano and reopen by Labor Day with a chef picked by him.
“(Paciello) assured (the women) that with his celebrity connections like Kevin Connolly, Leonardo DiCaprio — who is producing a movie about the nightclub king’s life — Madonna and many more, that (Murano) would become the hot spot in Los Angeles,” the suit states.
Although Gans and Sachs completed the improvements, Paciello loaned them only $246,240, claiming he could not provide the rest because he was “broke,” according to the suit.
Paciello, 41, countersued in January 2009, naming Sachs and Gans, as well as their business venture, Murano Ristorante Partners Inc., as defendants.
The complaint has been consolidated with the Sachs-Gans suit. According Valerie Horn, a lawyer for both women, Gans was dismissed as a defendant on April 10, 2012.
He alleges 11 causes of action that include fraud and deceit, breach of a written contract and both intentional and negligent misrepresentation.
Paciello’s suit states that he gave the women $400,000, and they promised to make him the “front man” at Murano, with a management fee distribution equal to half of Murano’s profits. Instead, he alleges, Sachs “exerted control over every aspect of the restaurant, most of the time detrimentally interfering with management and operation.”
The $400,000 Paciello claimed he lent the women has not been repaid, according to his suit.
Paciello formerly owned the nightclubs Liquid and Bar Room in Miami’s South Beach area, as well as the Cristoni Pizzeria locations in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. He later returned to Miami Beach to help revitalize the fortunes of the Delano Hotel as a destination spot for celebrities.
“Kings of South Beach,” a film loosely based on Paciello’s life in Florida, was released by the A&E Network in 2007.