her fans, Lisa Frank is almost as mythical a figure as her beloved
unicorn. For women in their twenties, thirties, and forties, Frank's
name alone conjures up a specter of koala bears clinging to
rainbow-flavored ice-cream cones, neon tiger cubs frolicking with
surfing penguins, and, of course, majestic unicorns prancing before a
swirl of hearts and stars. But the company is now a shadow of what it
once was, and its fall from grace—a story of scandal, greed, and
abuse—is in stark contrast to its shiny, happy aesthetic.
unclear whether Lisa Frank—the real woman and artist who founded the
school-supplies brand in 1979—was fully aware of the whispers that had
been circulating for years around her company's headquarters in Tucson,
AZ. It's possible that she had no idea what people were saying about her
husband, Lisa Frank Inc. CEO James Green. Rumor had it that Green was
an unfaithful monster with a cocaine problem; employees feared he would
destroy the company.
it turns out, those fears were not unfounded. According to court
documents and first-hand accounts from former employees speaking
exclusively to Jezebel, the personal drama of Frank's marriage quickly
turned into professional disaster.
The Woman Behind the Girlie
hails from tony Bloomfield Hills, a city just north of Detroit that is
routinely ranked in the top five wealthiest cities in America with a
population under 10,000. Her father was in the automotive industry,
running Detroit Aluminum & Brass, a publicly-traded family company
founded by her grandfather and his brothers in 1925. D.A.B. manufactured
automatic transmission components, clutches, et cetera—to put their
early success into perspective, D.A.B. was the only company in the
United States to make the engine bearings for tanks used in WWII.
life was, by all accounts, a happy and comfortable one—the kind,
perhaps, that would compel a person to illustrate cheerleader bears and
ponies with gorgeous eyelashes. Frank told Urban Outfitters' blog that her parents actively encouraged her interests, which were artistic and feminine:
"My dad was an art collector, my mom had a little kiln in our
basement and we would make pottery. I think from about age five on, they
sent me to art classes, and I was a huge colorer. HUGE. I think to keep
me quiet, they would bring the coloring books and crayons, and I would
fill up the books.
I was totally a girly girl. I was not a
jock. When I was 12, my parents got me a loom, so I was a weaver. I
loved to read, I loved to do artwork, I loved to do anything girly."
She attended the same elite prep school
as Mitt and Ann Romney, where she began painting. At an art show her
senior year, she managed to earn $3,000 (in the early '70s, no less)
selling her work. One of her buyers was Lee Iacocca, former CEO of
entrepreneurial instinct first kicked in during her time at the
University of Arizona, where she would purchase handmade pottery and
jewelry from local Native American communities and sell them at a markup
back home in Michigan. Frank did so well that she eventually started
directing the artists on what kind of jewelry to make.
"If I said 'Make a teddy bear or a unicorn,' that was what sold," she told UO.
her own knack for commercial sense, she began creating her own original
designs. By the time she was 20, she'd created a plastic jewelry line
called Sticky Fingers that got picked up by Neiman Marcus and
Bloomingdale's. The collection inspired her to design stickers and
got the rights for Betty Boop and Popeye and Mighty Mouse from King
Features, and I would put, like, Betty Boop on a unicorn," she told The Daily of her first wholesale business.
1979, she renamed the company and Lisa Frank, Inc. was born. That same
year she received her first million-dollar order from Spencer Gifts. She
was 25 years old.
Thirty-five years and one mega-brand later, there are only two photos of Lisa Frank floating around the Internet. In 2012, she agreed to be filmed for a rare interview to promote a short-lived partnership with Urban Outfitters, but asked that her face not be shown.
"In my own little way, I understood Michael Jackson," Frank said in a 2012 interview with The Daily,
intimating that her own level of fame is in some way comparable to that
of the late King of Pop and has thus affected how she interacts with
I use my credit card…and they go 'Oh my gosh, there's Lisa Frank who
makes the stickers!' I go, 'Isn't that the craziest thing that I have
the same name?'"
she believes she can comprehend or relate to what life was like for the
most famous entertainer of all time—who was notoriously viewed as a
victim of his own celebrity—is confounding. But it also provides an
illuminating peek into the mogul's mindset.
Frank's former employees about her, however, and her psychology or
personality is not usually the first thing they mention. Most, when
speaking to Jezebel, went straight to her "super thin" appearance.
was very beauty-focused," according to Karen*, who worked in the sales
department at LFI in the early 2000s. She said Frank was "obsessed with
her body image" and her waning youth, which Karen believes is what
contributes to Frank's reclusive nature.
she's getting older now. She kept getting—I don't know if it was
plastic surgery—but she kept getting these lotions, talking about
youth…Have you met her? She's like two pounds," she said, adding, "[She]
just doesn't want to eat because she doesn't want to look fat or ugly
or whatever she thinks."
who worked in the creative department for two years right around the
time of Frank and Green's divorce, described Frank as, "a very
passionate lady, although a little manic and not always all there."
kind of looks like one of her characters," he added. "Very over-the-top
and very colorful [with] big hair and really big eyes."
admits that she infuses aspects of her own personality into the
characters she creates, but she says Purrscilla—an ostensibly wealthy,
fluffy, white kitten—is most like her (even though Frank confesses she's
"not a cat fan"). She explained the similarities in a 2012 interview
with Urban Outfitters' blog:
"[Purrscilla] is very into glam and glitz and jewelry and
everything very girly. And some of the jewelry in the illustration is
even my own jewelry…[S]he is a really glamorous kitty."
In case you were wondering, Purrscilla's
jewelry consists of matching diamond tennis bracelets, a bejeweled
tiara, a heart-shaped box packed with various gemstones and ribbons, and
a pimp chalice overflowing with butterfly brooches and strands of
Dancing Dolphins, Ballerina Bunnies, and Sinking Sales
Frank's line of products—folders, pencil cases, erasers, Trapper
Keepers, and notebooks—were so popular that the company was raking in over $60 million a year in sales
during its peak in the late '90s. According to court documents,
shareholder distributions to Lisa Frank and James Green totaled more
than $100 million between 1995 and 2005 alone.
But the halcyon days of dayglo pandas and the stationery gravy train are seemingly over. The company only earned an estimated $2.3 million
in annual revenue recently, according to Dun & Bradstreet. Its
retail stores have all shuttered. Its products, which once dominated the
back-to-school aisles in stores across the country, are tough to find
today with drastically limited availability. The number of corporate employees dwindled from 350 to just six, according to a June 2013 article in the Arizona Daily Star that Jackie Gambrell, Frank's Executive Assistant, referred to as "unkind and untrue."
(When asked what was untrue in the Daily Star
piece, Gambrell answered, "I'm not giving you an interview." She said
she was "waiting for our PR girls" before she would answer any of
Jezebel's questions. When pressed on the time frame for that she
admitted, "We have have to hire a PR firm," but said it would happen,
"sometime this week." That was almost five months ago.)
small staff of LFI still reports to Lisa Frank HQ: a 320,000
square-foot building in Tucson, infamous in the area for its decor,
featuring giant, multicolored music notes, hearts and stars
and oversized, fiberglass character statues. Near the building's
entrance, a large silver unicorn sculpture is missing its horn. The
building and land are listed for lease or sale at a reduced price of $13.25 million. According to Tim Healy, the listing agent at the time, LFI was "still operating inside the facility but not at full capacity."
what happened? Is this simply the inevitable outcome for a stationery
company in a paperless world? Is what's left just a rotting corpse of a
fad that died over a decade ago? No, alleged former employees, who
pointed to the company's opportunity to capitalize on '90s nostalgia.
could have caught on with the hipster market, but in order for a
company to really turn a corner in those kind of things, they need
compassionate leadership and people who appreciate and can nurture
talent," said Jacob, who served as an illustrator for the company for
four years. "They didn't have either of those."
was the silliest set-up I've ever seen," he added. "Of course, from the
outside it's colorful—you've got the rainbow, the stars, the hearts on
the building, the statue of the panda—but inside was like an abusive
don't think [Frank and Green] have a lot of business acumen," said
Karen. "I don't think they ever did. I think Lisa's parents [funded the
start of] her company. She's an artist, not a business person."
fact, every one of the former employees of Lisa Frank, Inc. who were
interviewed for this story all said the same thing: the current state of
affairs is unsurprising to them and was a long time coming, thanks to
chronic mismanagement from both Frank and Green.
The problem wasn't business—it was personal.
Inside the Rainbow Gulag
Frank is notorious in Tucson as the world's sh*ttiest employer," said
Caroline, who considered applying for one of the many job openings at
the company she saw advertised when she moved to Tucson in 2001, but
decided against it after speaking with locals. "Every single person I
talked to advised me to avoid Lisa Frank at all costs," she said. "I
didn't know a single person who had not heard horror stories about the
work environment there."
Even court documents reflect those sentiments, with one longtime employee, Dan Mullen, stating how lowly regarded the company was in the community.
"The word in Tucson is that 'you don't want to work for the Lisa Frank Company,'" he said.
don't know if it's possible to really communicate how bad their
reputation was in town," Caroline stressed, before adding, "Every person
who ever worked there seemed to have a case of PTSD from it. 'Rainbow
Gulag' is really an apt description."
there was an emphasis on productivity, the rules that were implemented
seemed counterproductive to a creative environment. According to former
employees, the office was a place of silence and co-workers were not
allowed to speak to one another. The management secretly (and illegally) recorded phone calls. An interoffice, bimonthly publication called "Frankly Speaking" [left]
informed employees how they were to behave, particularly regarding how
they were expected to interact with their boss, CEO James Green. Memos
were frequently circulated with new, increasingly restrictive company
policies. No visitors, including family members, were allowed. The
penalty for any violations ranged from verbal abuse to name-calling to
screaming to automatic termination to even more bizarre restrictions.
time, after discovering that someone left the office 10 minutes early,
an enraged Green instructed the warehouse manager to put chains and
padlocks on all the downstairs doors so that "the staff can't escape.")
"There was just this air of fear there," said Marcia, a onetime graphic designer for LFI who
remembered the office as being cold, both figuratively and literally.
"It just seemed very clear, the mentality of it: keep it ice cold, keep
people miserable and on edge. It was just insane—totally insane."
if working there was difficult, so was leaving. The company allegedly
often failed to give promised severance packages, fought unemployment
benefits, and former employees had to sue for their final paychecks or
sales commissions as evidenced by public records of numerous civil
judgments entered against LFI.
In addition to the bad publicity stemming from a series of lawsuits from local contractors and builders
who claimed hadn't been paid for $4 million worth of work on the
corporate headquarters, LFI's image problem stemmed from the company's
unusually high turnover rate, with numerous former employees available
to poison the well with first-hand accounts of just how unpleasant it
was to work there, and others corroborating those stories.
was a revolving door," Jacob said of the company's turnover. In the
four years that he was employed in the 40-person creative department, he
estimates that group "may have changed over at least two to three
times…It was just unbelievable. One year, almost a third of the entire
staff turned over."
According to Susan Russo, who worked as the Sales and Marketing Manager, "over 80 people walked out the door," between February 2003 and December 2004, "most without notice because they had been treated so poorly."
Even an otherwise positive 2004 Arizona Daily Star article
about the company's 25th anniversary couldn't help but point out how
seemingly odd it was that, after a series of massive layoffs in which
the company slimmed down from 400 employees to just 100, LFI still
couldn't retain its staff.
Advertisements for jobs at the company appear frequently in
newspaper classified ads. But Frank said turnover is on par with other
businesses of similar size…
"We're always on the lookout for new talent to join our team."
The turnover issue was due in part to random, flared-temper firings, according to sources who worked at the company.
But many people quit because they couldn't handle the oppressive
atmosphere, like Justin, who worked as an illustrator in the early
"I couldn't stay there any longer than seven months," he said. "It seemed really just needlessly abusive."
One member of a parenting message board recounted her experience as a Lisa Frank employee:
I personally heard [Lisa Frank] scream at sales managers and threaten their lives if they *&%^$#@Eed up a presentation.
Another former employee posted a comment on a forum for freelance artists:
Every day was so stress full [sic] and hearing Lisa's voice
downstairs on a speaker phone made my blood run cold. I had many
instances where she abused me verbally.
was like the worst place I'd ever worked," said Karen, "Which is kind
of ironic, given that they have rainbows and unicorns everywhere."
at least acknowledged as much. A few years after getting fired from the
company for talking on the phone with her father (she later sued for
wrongful termination) Karen ran into Frank at a salon.
said, 'Oh, Lisa, remember me? I worked for you.' And she said, 'Oh, did
we fire you?' And I was like, 'Yeah.' And she was like, 'Oh, I'm sorry.
I wasn't really a great employer.'"
Mean and Green
asked what the root of the problem was at LFI, former employees—some of
whom spoke directly to Jezebel, while others are on record in court documents—all had the same answer: LFI CEO James Green.
Green began working at LFI in 1982 as the company's first in-house illustrator and designer.
Shortly after beginning a romantic relationship with Frank—"sometime in
late 1983 or early 1984"—Green began to move up the corporate ladder.
He became an officer of the business in 1988 and was named president and CEO in December 1992.
Green and Frank married on October 22, 1994 in what was described as "an extravagant affair." Their first child was born the following July, when Frank was 41.
"They seemed like very opulent people for Tucson," Marcia said of Frank and Green, who drove "flashy cars," had their own 12-seat, twin-engine airplane,
and a mansion characterized by one Tucson resident who spoke to Jezebel
as a "nouveau riche monstrosity of a house." (Frank has described her
house as "purple and yellow and hot pink and light green and orange.")
It was then, at the height of her products' popularity, that Frank "relinquished day-to-day management duties to Green"
in order to focus on raising her children. Shortly after each of her
sons were born, Frank—who had once been the sole shareholder in her
company—made gifts of her stock to Green in what would amount to 49% of the shareholdings in LFI.
"She wasn't that interested in being a businesswoman," said Karen. "She wanted to just enjoy her life."
she had her children—Hunter and Forrest, who were named after two
characters in Lisa Frank's multi-chromatic menagerie (a leopard cub and a
tiger cub, respectively)—Frank worked from home and rarely participated
physically in the office.
like once a month, Lisa would come in, kind of poke her [head] around
and just see what everybody was up to," said Kyle, who worked as an
illustrator in the mid-2000s.
For the next 10 years, Green ran the show.
"[He] really turned that place into a sh*t hole," said Justin, who added, "The guy's kind of dick."
seems to be a sentiment shared by others who've been in Green's employ.
In 2005, 16 people who had worked for or with LFI in various capacities
submitted sworn affidavits
in a lawsuit brought against Green, attesting to his management style.
Allegedly prone to fits of rage and loud, profanity-laden outbursts in
which he would publicly berate people—including his then-wife
Frank—Green was described as "abusive, arrogant and extremely difficult
to work with." Several former employees witnessed Green throwing chairs and other objects in the office.
Betty Hack, who worked as the General Sales Manager in Hong Kong in 2005, stated:
James' management style is abrasive and he often leads by
intimidation. he is often abusive to some of his employees by his
language and actions. He will never take someone to the side if he has
an issue with them, instead he will scream and curse and belittle them
in front of everyone. Whenever he hasn't liked someone or they have
crossed him in some way, he makes their work life miserable by his
constant abusive comments and harassment.
recounted a particularly cruel facet to Green's personality: he
wouldn't bother to learn employee's names so he would give them
nicknames of his own invention.
"I had a friend there and she was not the most attractive girl…she was sort of portly. [Green] used to refer to her as 'That Guy.'"
people who had worked for or with the company over the years repeatedly
remarked on the "oppressive management style" that contributed to a
"hostile" corporate culture of "intimidation and insecurity," according
to court documents.
was a very angry man…a pompous jerk," said Karen, echoing a sentiment
expressed by many former LFI staffers who spoke to Jezebel. "He was very
yell-y and mean."
A relatively short man who "reeked of cologne," Kyle surmised that Green has a Napoleon complex.
According to another former employee:
People who worked directly with James couldn't wear heels. He
said it was because they couldn't walk fast enough to keep up with him.
In reality, he has short man syndrome and didn't like working with women
taller than him.
staff's feelings for the company's vice president, Rhonda Rowlette—who
had been with the company since 1984 and was effectively Green's Girl
Friday—weren't any warmer.
"[James] was a tool," said Jacob. "And Rhonda was his hammer."
Or as Kyle put it, she was the Darth Vader to Green's Emperor.
Dan Mullen, who had worked in the art department at LFI for 14 years stated in court documents:
Rhonda Rowlette is the enforcer. James uses her to maintain
control of the employees. Through Rhonda employees' jobs are threatened
and an atmosphere of hostility is maintained. Employees are consistently
called to her office and subjected to threats and harassment.
But even Rowlette was the target of Green's abuse, according to court documents, which only baffled employees.
[M]any have wondered why she has taken it for so long. He
sometimes has been heard screaming at her…calling her fat or stupid or
former employees interviewed for this story believed the aggression,
hostility, and paranoia—"the earmarks of addiction," as Jacob put
it—exhibited by the company's leadership stemmed from drug use.
and Rhonda were pretty big into coke," said Kyle. "There would be days
when James would come down [to the art department] super sweaty and
super paranoid and just like walking really fast back and forth through
the design area. And there was nothing to be stressed about, it was just
a regular day."
Kyle's coworkers whispered that the drug use had been going on for years.
saw Rhonda come to work from time to time just totally *&%^$#@Eed up," said
Justin. He remembered one morning when she "couldn't even stand up
The comments section
of a 2009 nostalgia-based blog post about Lisa Frank products devolved,
over the next three years, into a sort of refuge/support group for
people who had once worked for the company, many of whom made repeated mentions of cocaine use by the higher-ups.
Another former employee shared the following anecdote on a parenting forum about a coworker at LFI:
She told me that James regularly sent her with an unmarked box or
a paper bag to meet someone at a gas station or parking lot. She was
supposed to exchange her package for theirs and not look inside. (There
were a lot of rumors and a couple of incidents about their cocaine use,
so we can guess what was inside.) He also had her buy his Viagra and his
while Frank, who worked from home, was not present in the office for
her own behavior to be observed, employees had their suspicions about
think Lisa Frank was into a little bit of coke or something as well,"
Kyle said. The reason he thinks that? In the archive room, where all the
original artwork ever created for the line is stored, there was rumored
to be an infamous letter on the back of one of the pieces.
from Lisa Frank's friend [written] to Lisa Frank [about] how much fun
she had freebasing with Lisa and whoring around New York," said Kyle.
Justin remembers the letter, too.
"I think we all Xeroxed that," he laughed.
it would seem—at the office at least, and with Frank home tending to
her boys—that the party had been whittled down to just Green and
to former employees who spoke to Jezebel, it was accepted by much of
the staff that Rowlette and Green were not-so-secret lovers.
I [started working] there, people were telling me that [Rhonda] and
James had this thing going on behind closed doors," said Kyle.
"She was screwing him!" according to one former employee commiserating with past coworkers online. Another referred to Rowlette as Green's " buddy."
Kobi Miller worked as a product development artist at LFI for over 10 years when he submitted a sworn affidavit remarking on his suspicions about Green and Rowlette's relationship.
[M]y wife and I were shopping at Tucson Mall over 4th of July
weekend 2005 and stopped by the Lisa Frank retail store in the mall…we
were surprised to see James and Rhonda together in the store on that 3
day weekend. [W]e had a short conversation with James (Rhonda didn't say
much). After we left them we both thought it strange that they would be
together and that Rhonda acted sort of caught off guard at seeing us
and acted uncomfortable. We wondered why James wasn't with his family
and Rhonda wasn't with her husband on a holiday weekend. Something
some point, Frank picked up on the alleged peculiarity. In September
2005, she filed for divorce. According to the court documents, Frank noted that "the precise date being unknown…Green and Rowlette formed a close personal bond and secret partnership."
You Mess With the Unicorn, You Get the Horn
wasn't a surprise," Karen said of the breakup of Frank and Green's
marriage. "They had a tumultuous relationship, it was no secret."
Frank had confided
in her friend Roy Hayes, Jr. that she was "frightened" of Green and had
been a victim of his verbal abuse for years. She was looking for a way
to Karen, years before Frank filed for divorce, she would test the
waters by regularly asking the staff, "If James and I divorced, would
you stay with the company?"
moved out of the family home in June 2005 and Frank spent the rest of
the summer "getting more involved in the day-to-day activities [of the
company]," according to Kyle.
undoubtedly knew that ending her partnership—both in life and in
business—with Green would be a contentious, litigious mess. She began
increasing her presence in the office, according to legal documents, and taking a more active role.
would get [art] direction from her and then James would come down and
be like, 'That's bullsh*t! I run this company and you've got to
do it [my] way," Kyle said.
that his wife was angling to oust him, Green seemingly began a campaign
of his own, enlisting Rowlette's help, according to court records.
and Rhonda put pressure on people [to] pick a side: either you pick
Lisa or you pick James," said Kyle. "James was telling people if the
company splits up he's going to start his own company. He was trying to
recruit people to go with him so that way, if Lisa did get the company,
she wouldn't have anybody to help her."
For her part, Frank had virtual spies. Green claimed
that Frank hired an outside IT consultant to provide her with direct
access to all company emails, which she used to monitor their
communications, and delete and redirect emails, which he said created a
up for a war to regain control of her company, a siege was probably her
aim. One has to wonder, though, what Frank was searching for with her
access to employees' email accounts. And it's odd that something like
that would anger Green, a man who—according to former employees who
spoke to Jezebel—didn't have even the most basic human decency with
regards to respecting those who worked for him. Besides, as Betty Hack said:
[It] is a known fact throughout the company that James has had
this very same access for years and has [been] doing this behavior all
I was also told by several IT managers over the
past years that…phones and offices were also sometimes bugged at the
request of James.
would he care if his wife were meddling in emails sent on the company's
servers if he'd been doing it all along himself? He admitted to as much
after he was ordered by a judge to return six computers he'd allegedly stolen
from the office shortly after Frank filed for divorce, saying the
machines "contain personal correspondence" that he wanted protected.
One month after filing a civil suit
(to force Green to attend the annual two-person shareholders meeting so
she could elect a new board of directors) and an application for a temporary restraining order
against Green (to keep him away from the business and stop him from
"harassing employees, blocking purchase orders" and removing assets from
the company)—Frank won the first battle in what would be a long,
drawn-out, dirty war. She arrived at the company's headquarters with the
police, who escorted Green, Rowlette, and Rowlette's secretary from
Lisa Frank was once again CEO of Lisa Frank, Inc.
The Trials of Lisa Frank
the years following the breakup, instead of forging ahead with the
company's plans to expand with a Fantastic World of Lisa Frank theme
park, a clothing line, and TV shows (the company always consider itself
competition for Disney), Lisa Frank spent the latter half of the 2000s
mired in litigation, mostly with Green and Rowlette.
- Lisa Frank vs. James Green, September 2005 Frank's initial suit against Green to oust him from her company went through a series of appeals.
- James Green vs. Lisa Frank, September 2005 In his counterclaim, Green fought tooth-and-nail to block a 1995 "buy-sell" agreement that gave Frank the right to buy out Green's shares in LFI should the couple ever divorce. He claimed that he created all of the company's content, including the "400 original characters and themes with the exception of a handful." Green also petitioned the court to dissolve Lisa Frank, Inc., on the grounds that what Frank was doing—by trying to take back control of her company—was illegal. Ultimately, he wasn't successful, but five litigious years would pass before a settlement arrangement was met.
- Rhonda Rowlette vs. Lisa Frank, Inc., March 2006 After she was fired by Frank, Rowlette sued for $2 million plus damages claiming it was what she was often promised
as a severance if she were ever to retire or be fired. The litigation
and appeals went on for over three years before there was a sealed
- Lisa Frank, Inc. vs. James Green and Jerry Rowlette, April 2006 In a third-party counterclaim, LFI alleged (among things) that Rowlette and Green, along with Rowlette's husband Jerry Rowlette, stole five truckloads of company property and converted corporate funds for their personal use. (Incidentally, both Rowlettes were dragged into and deposed for Frank and Green's civil suit and divorce proceedings.)
- James Green vs. Lisa Frank and Lisa Frank, Inc., August 2006 Green sought $16.7 million to repay a loan for a private jet he bought.
- James Green vs. Lisa Frank and Lisa Frank, Inc., March 2008 Green sued for $2.2 million, which he claimed was his share of the sale of the jet.
- Greenbean Investments, LLC vs. Lisa Frank, Inc., March 2008 Green sued in an attempt to take back Lisa Frank HQ
on the grounds that LFI had had violated its lease with Greenbean
Investments—which owned the property—by failing to pay rent, which he
claimed, as a 47.5% owner of Greenbean, entitled him to "re-enter and
take possession" of the property. Frank also owned 47.5% of Greenbean.
Their two minor sons owned the remaining 5%. The suit was dismissed.
- Jerry Rowlette vs. Lisa Frank, Inc., November 2008 Rowlette's husband sued
Lisa Frank, Inc. for punitive damages in regards to the allegations
that he stole and converted company property. The suit was dismissed.
- James Green vs. Lisa Frank, Inc., October 2009 Green, acting again as a member of Greenbean Investments, attempted to have LFI evicted from its headquarters. As part of this suit, Green sent his sons—the
other members of Greenbean Investments, who were about 13 and 9 years
old at the time—a written demand to give him consent to take action
against their mother's company. They didn't provide it and he was
unsuccessful with the eviction.
top of all of that, Frank and Green have spent the better part of eight
years duking it out over everything and anything, such as divvying up
personal possessions like furniture and family photographs.
As recently as January 2013 they were still bickering within the legal
system. According to court documents, they can't even come to agreements
on their children's vacations or schedules without the regular
intervention of their lawyers.
while, in the fight to regain control of her company, Frank had charged
that Green had "presided over a drastic reduction in corporate sales
and profits" (one former employee said
Green lacked "focus and direction" and cared more about the font used
in presentations than the content), and created a "contentious working
environment," she hasn't fared much better at its helm. She severely
reduced her staff and entered into an exclusive licensing agreement in
2010 with a Delaware-based company, CSS Industries, which would
manufacture and sell her line of products.
know they must be hurting because when I was working there there would
be no way in hell she'd ever consider licensing," said Kyle. "Because
she wanted total control."
However, the relationship with CSS Industries quickly soured and Frank filed a suit against the company in 2012 for failing to earn her the $2.8 million in royalties it had promised.
The End of the Rainbow
year there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of
the nostalgia market. Lisa Frank, Inc. had entered into a relationship
with Urban Outfitters
to sell T-shirts she designed exclusively for the retailer using some
of her classic illustrations. In addition, they sold her excess stock of
"vintage" stationery pieces. Despite the partnership being an apparent
success—everything sold out quickly—the company has seemingly ended its
apparel deal with Lisa Frank, Inc., although it recently began to sell various holiday items, like Christmas ornaments and calendars. Urban Outfitters has not responded to several requests for comment.
"They lose relationships with people because they aren't friendly," said Karen of the company's inability to maintain business.
how trends are cyclical, it's a shame that Frank's empire couldn't
capitalize on the resurgence of the aesthetic she created. But it's not stopping other companies from doing so.
As for Green, he found Jesus.
Jewish, he has evidently converted to Christianity and sells
religious-based stationery and T-shirt designs on his website JamesChristianMan.com, where he also shares his poetry, photography, and sculptures (one is a giant sand castle-type creation of a crucifix).
"James did not seem like he gave a about God or anything like that," laughed Justin. "There was that South Park
episode with Faith +1 where Cartman started a Christian boy band just
to take advantage of people. That's kind of what [Green's new business]
founded his business Salvation, LLC a few months after leaving Lisa
Frank, Inc. Rhonda Rowlette is his Vice President. Although he's yet to
experience the kind of commercial success the Lisa Frank brand has
enjoyed, it's not for a lack of trying. Salvation, LLC has registered a couple dozen trademarks on designs and slogans.
One of them, aptly, is "Blame James."
* Some names of former LFI employees have been changed to protect their anonymity.