“Windy City Rehab” partners Alison Victoria Gramenos and Donovan Eckhardt find themselves in legal trouble once again. The duo behind the popular HGTV show owe a pair of suburban Chicago lenders more than $170,000, according to a lawsuit filed in Cook County court this week.
In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Ferro Investment Fund LP and Mark Triffler Declaration of Trust say they lent a total of $185,000 in April 2019 to 200 E. Delaware LLC, a company managed by Eckhardt and Gramenos that purchased a Gold Coast condo renovated on Season 2 of “Windy City Rehab.”
The loans were due in April 2020, but the groups agreed to extend repayment until Oct. 9, according to the lawsuit. Another extension, this time to Dec. 31, 2020, was negotiated, but never finalized, the groups said in the suit.
Some payments were made, but Gramenos and Eckhardt now owe the Joliet-based Ferro fund at least $56,267 and the Lemont-based Triffler trust at least $117,231 in principal and interest payments, according to the lawsuit, which also sought attorneys fees. A court date is scheduled for Nov. 2.
An attorney for the Ferro fund and the Triffler trust did not respond to requests for comment.
An attorney for Eckhardt, James Skyles, disputed that Eckhardt owed the lenders money.
“Mr. Eckhardt has settled all business with Ferro Investment Fund and the Mark Triffler Trust,” he said in an email. “We are puzzled as to why he has been included in this lawsuit.”
One of Gramenos’ attorneys, Daniel Lynch, said in a statement the lawsuit was “another in a series of claims arising out of the fallout of the ongoing business divorce” between Gramenos and Eckhardt, and that it “arises out of a project Donovan brought to the table.”
“Donovan represented to Alison and the investors (that he brought to the deal) that profit after the construction would be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Lynch said. “It turned out, however, that contrary to Donovan’s statements, the project was a money loser. Triffler and Ferro are now disappointed that they did not get all their money back. Alison shares in their disappointment because she also lost more than $150,000 on the project as well.”
The condo at 200 E. Delaware Pl. sold for $1.3 million in November 2020 after several price drops, according to public records. Renovation of the home was featured on an episode of “Windy City Rehab” that premiered in October 2020.
That episode and others in Season 2 followed the breakdown in the relationship between Gramenos and Eckhardt, once close friends who purchased, renovated and sold Chicago homes together. Gramenos, the designer and host, and Eckhardt, the former lead contractor, ran into trouble with the city for alleged building violations and were involved in a slew of lawsuits, many of which have been settled or dropped.
They are still the subject of lawsuits from a Lincoln Square couple unhappy with the renovation of their home, which was shown on the first season of the show, and a family of investors who said they were not properly repaid.
Friday, Cook County Judge Allen Walker agreed to mediate settlement negotiations between the investors, Gramenos and Eckhardt.
“The court would — I’m reluctant to use the word ‘happy’ — but the court would be willing to assist you guys with having settlement discussions,” Walker told their attorneys.
Attorneys for Gramenos and the investors declined or did not respond to requests for comment about the mediation decision. Skyles, Eckhardt’s lawyer, welcomed the decision.
“Judge Walker’s decision to mediate settlement negotiations is welcomed by all parties,” he said in an email. “Hopefully it will result in an outcome that is at least agreeable to all parties.”
Eckhardt has also filed a $2.2 million suit accusing HGTV’s parent company and Big Table Media, which produces “Windy City Rehab,” of defamation, saying in part in the lawsuit that he experienced anxiety and depression after being falsely accused of misappropriating money and being subjected to social media attacks from fans of the show.
A judge on Friday dismissed the lawsuit, agreeing with HGTV’s parent company and Big Table Media that Cook County was not the proper venue for the lawsuit and upholding an agreement Eckhardt signed as part of his involvement in the show that jurisdiction would be in California. Eckhardt can re-file his suit there, Judge Patricia Sheahan wrote.