Feud between ‘Windy City Rehab’ pair continues as judge delays decision

·4 min read

Feuding “Windy City Rehab” teammates Alison Victoria Gramenos and Donovan Eckhardt seemed to agree they need an outsider to oversee the end of their business relationship — but that brief appearance of unity dissolved in court on Wednesday.

Eckhardt, former lead contractor on the HGTV show, filed an emergency motion June 9, arguing that “immediate action” is necessary to secure a receiver to “manage and wind down” the affairs of Alovan, his venture with Gramenos. The motion came as part of a lawsuit brought last year by the Chicago-area Ward family of investors who said they were not repaid properly by Gramenos and Eckhardt.

John Kennedy, an attorney for the Ward family, called the motion “unnecessary and, frankly, unfounded” at Wednesday’s virtual hearing and expressed concern about incurring more attorneys fees “in the middle of what I thought were good-faith settlement discussions.” Eckhardt’s attorney seemed to side with him.

“My agreement initially to file this emergency motion with Mr. Lynch (a Gramenos attorney) was based on his open threats to file a third-party complaint against my client. And I wanted to avoid” that, said James Skyles, an attorney for Eckhardt. He later told the Tribune: “Mr. Eckhardt and the Wards have been engaging in good-faith negotiations to resolve their legal issues. Moving the date on the decision is a step in allowing those negotiations to continue.”

Judge Allen Price Walker set a July 9 date to revisit the motion that would pave the way for appointment of a receiver. “By that time you’ll either be well on the road to getting this resolved or you won’t be,” he said.

Gramenos, an interior designer, and Eckhardt were once close friends who purchased, renovated and flipped Chicago homes on “Windy City Rehab,” which premiered in 2019. Budget issues and troubles with the city plagued their relationship, which deteriorated over the most recent episodes. Other lawsuits have been dropped, but the two still face a pair of fraud suits from a couple who purchased a $1.36 million Lincoln Square home featured on the first season and the Wards, who said they invested $3 million in the pair’s venture.

Daniel Lynch, one of Gramenos’ attorneys, argued in court Wednesday that appointment of a receiver for Alovan is “urgently” needed so counsel can be retained for the Lincoln Square suit. Alovan’s lawyer cited “irreconcilable conflict” when he quit that case in May. A deadline to retain counsel passed earlier this month, Lynch said. A receiver could also lead a financial accounting of Alovan.

“In seeking a receiver, Alison is pushing for sunlight. An independent receiver can help gather the information the Wards and Alison now lack and only Donovan and his companies may have,” Amy Kanarowski, an attorney for Gramenos, said in a statement to the Tribune. “In opposing the receiver, the Wards and Donovan have signaled that they seem to be just fine operating in the dark. Hopefully, they will change their mind soon.”

July 9 was selected as the next court date because that’s also a court date for the Lincoln Square suit. Various defendants in the Lincoln Square case, including Gramenos, Eckhardt and contractor Ermin Pajazetovic, filed arguments Friday in support of their motions to dismiss that suit. As it stands, the most recent version of the complaint by homebuyers James and Anna Morrissey “involves a claim for approximately $65,000 in damages ... for the costs of work to resolve deficiencies with a renovation performed” at their Lincoln Square home, according to paperwork filed last week.

The Morrisseys say the house did not come with a promised new roof, but it did have crumbling masonry, a defective sump pump and a shower that leaked gallons of water into the kitchen shortly after closing.

In other “Windy City Rehab” news:

  • A Cook County judge is slated to issue a ruling next month on whether Eckhardt will have to refile his $2.2 million defamation suit against the production company behind “Windy City Rehab” and the parent company of HGTV in California, per the terms of his show agreement. Eckhardt said in a June 1 filing it would be an “extreme hardship” to bring the complaint across country because his family, business, support system, therapist and “virtually all of the witnesses” related to his case are located in Illinois.

  • New Season 2 “Windy City Rehab” episodes are expected to air later this year. Keep an eye out for 2222 W. Ohio St., a six-bedroom single-family home, and 2224 W. Ohio St., a four-unit building. Real estate agent Vincent Anzalone, who has appeared on the show, said in a recent social media post these two West Town projects, each priced at $1.5 million, are “coming soon.”

tswartz@tribpub.com

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