Thursday, April 19, 2018
Business

Family feud over 'Bollywood Oscars' prompts lawsuit

TAMPA — The feud dividing one of the bay area's most prominent Indian families, born from their eventually successful quest to lure the "Bollywood Oscars" to Tampa, has gone legal.

Dr. Kiran Patel — the wealthy health care executive and philanthropist — has sued his brother-in-law, Chetan Shah, alleging Shah fraudulently listed Patel as a managing member of Go Bollywood Tampa Bay Florida Convention LLC, a host committee to the 2014 International Indian Film Academy awards gala in Tampa.

Shah created Go Bollywood in June 2013 as he tried to convince people that Tampa was a legitimate contender to land the IIFA awards, which had never come to the United States.

Shah added Patel's name without permission "to create instant credibility for GBTB (Go Bollywood) by utilizing Patel's good name and reputation," according to the lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough County circuit court May 29.

Patel, along with Go Bollywood, faced lawsuits in Hillsborough and New York courts from companies that asserted they had been promised business from the IIFA awards. The local suit was dismissed; the New York case continues.

In a phone interview Thursday, Shah denied adding Patel's name to Go Bollywood's incorporating documents without permission, and said the two sides were working on a settlement.

"Good news and a win-win situation is going to happen to all the parties," said Shah, 48.

Patel, 65, and his attorney, Leonard Englander, declined to comment Thursday.

In July, when local tourism and elected officials triumphantly announced the 2014 IIFA awards were coming to Tampa, most of the credit was given to Shah, a Lutz businessman who owns a motel and several dry cleaning stores.

When the gala was presented in late April, though, organizers lauded Patel instead.

In early May, a Tampa Bay Times article recounted reasons behind the shifting credit and revealed the family rift.

Shah had bungled a business deal that nearly scuttled the event in Tampa, according to Wizcraft, the Mumbai company that puts on the awards.

In late 2013, as Wizcraft threatened to take the upcoming gala elsewhere, Patel stepped in and underwrote the event with an undisclosed amount of money.

Shah refutes the claims by Wizcraft officials and says he was wrongfully cut out of the planning process and denied rightful credit for his role as "founder of IIFA Tampa Bay."

Earlier this year, after Shah was not invited to an awards planning event in Tampa, he briefly went on a liquid hunger strike in protest. He also spent several weeks sleeping on the floor of a small office, rather than in his suburban mansion, also to protest his treatment by organizers.

Despite these remonstrations, it was Patel who walked on stage at Raymond James Stadium on April 26 to applause while Shah sat in the audience.

Shah — whose older sister, Dr. Pallavi Patel, is Kiran Patel's wife — has been negotiating a settlement through "family mediators," he said Thursday, not face-to-face.

"So our family relations stay maintained," he explained.

Shah expressed confidence that the dispute would end soon and he would be given credit he is owed, he said.

"Whatever I have lost by them dropping me as the person that brought IIFA to Tampa Bay, I am gaining it back," Shah said. "I am like the man who set the table for a large dinner, and who said dinner is served, and everyone came to eat the dinner, but forgot who served the dinner."

Will Hobson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400.

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