A Long-Awaited Resolution for Tripple Ripple Ice Cream Cone
After nearly 12 years of legal battles, McDonald’s Corp. has finally reached a significant settlement of $15.5 million with Central Ice Cream Co. This out-of-court agreement puts an end to the dispute surrounding the beloved Tripple Ripple ice cream cone, which the fast-food giant had allegedly reneged on purchasing. While Central Ice Cream’s future remains uncertain due to its debts and legal fees, McDonald’s seems unaffected, ready to move forward with the settlement.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
Surprising everyone involved, McDonald’s executive vice president for law, Donald P. Horowitz, mentioned that the settlement check will be made payable to the clerk of the Cook County court. Horowitz humorously added, “If they can’t figure out what to do with it, that’s their problem.” It’s clear that McDonald’s is determined to fulfill its part of the settlement, leaving the court to navigate the distribution of the funds.
Resolving the Dispute
McDonald’s officials managed to reach an agreement solely with the lawyers who initiated the 1977 lawsuit on behalf of Tripple Ripple’s developer, Tom Cummings. These lawyers are Gerry Spence from Wyoming and Theodore Becker from Chicago. While a significant portion of the settlement will cover legal fees, the remaining amount is the subject of a dispute, with Central Ice Cream’s ownership being called into question.
A Jury’s Verdict and The Founder’s Passing
A Cook County Circuit Court jury awarded Central Ice Cream’s owner a staggering $52 million just six days after the passing of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, on January 20, 1984. However, the recent settlement took Circuit Judge Irving Norman by surprise. Norman was set to rule on posttrial motions in the case, unaware that a settlement was on the horizon.
A group of investors, including former Deputy Mayor Kenneth Sain, State Sen. Howard Carroll (D., Chicago), and attorney Irwin Jann, claims to have a partnership that owns Central Ice Cream. Allegedly, this group acquired 95 percent of Central’s stock in 1978 during the company’s reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law. It appears that the partnership’s interests weren’t taken into account during the settlement, raising questions about their compensation.
From Bankruptcy to Speculative Investments
When Central Ice Cream filed for bankruptcy in June 1978, it accumulated debts ranging from $4 million to $8 million. These debts included $700,000 in back taxes, $50,000 plus interest owed to Cook County Clerk Stanley Kusper, and $30,000 plus interest owed to the Carroll group. Additionally, the company had borrowed money from its employees to sustain operations. Later, Chicago insurance company owner George Kamberos made a speculative investment, acquiring 80 percent of Central’s shares at a foreclosure sale and agreeing to cover legal fees.
The Origins of the Dispute
The initial disagreement can be traced back to a 1972 agreement between Ray Kroc and Tom Cummings. Seeking to develop a unique ice cream cone, Kroc turned to Cummings, President of Central Ice Cream located at 48th Street and South Western Avenue. Cummings successfully created the Tripple Ripple ice cream cone, a delectable blend of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. McDonald’s embraced this creation, using it in select stores for approximately two years before abruptly discontinuing its purchase. Cummings insisted that Kroc had made a 20-year “handshake” agreement, granting him exclusive rights to Tripple Ripple.
Unwritten Contracts and Allegations
During the trial, evidence revealed that Kroc frequently conducted business with suppliers for extended periods without formal contracts. Cummings attempted to demonstrate that McDonald’s management, unbeknownst to Kroc, conspired to cancel the Tripple Ripple product and conceal issues within the company’s distribution system. As a result of the failed deal in 1974, Cummings claimed to have personally incurred substantial financial losses, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars. McDonald’s consistently argued that the agreement between Kroc and Cummings did not guarantee long-term exclusivity, contrary to Cummings’ assertions.
As we bid farewell to this lengthy legal battle, it’s worth noting the resilience and dedication demonstrated by both parties involved. The Tripple Ripple ice cream cone holds a special place in the hearts of ice cream enthusiasts, and its fate now rests on the future decisions of Central Ice Cream. Let us hope that this settlement brings closure and paves the way for new opportunities in the world of frozen delights.
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