Earlier this month, fast-growing United Language Group announced the acquisition of a German language-translation software company that the St. Louis Park-based company expects will help it achieve up to $90 million in sales this year and cement its position as one of the world’s largest language-translation firms.
The upbeat announcement was in stark contrast to the fact that ULG’s former leader, who only a year ago recruited growth-capital partners, was fired and has since sued the private equity firm that took a majority stake last summer.
In documents filed since last fall in Hennepin County, former United Language CEO Jeff Brink accused Northern Pacific Group of Wayzata of unjustly firing him, stealing his idea for a global-language titan, defaming him and lying to employees about his firing.
“The false and misleading statements published by [Northern Pacific Group] have disgraced and degraded Brink, have harmed and will continue to harm his personal and professional reputation, injure his character, and lower his reputation in the estimation of the business community,” the filings said.
ULG and Northern Pacific assert in court that the lawsuit should be dismissed and consolidated into an employment-arbitration proceeding that Brink has also commenced.
Brink, in a defamation lawsuit and separate employment-arbitration proceeding, disputes an e-mail sent to ULG employees by a Northern Pacific principal that said Brink had stepped aside in favor of a new leader “with a different blend of leadership and technology skills …”
According to Brink’s lawsuit, the Northern Pacific investors he recruited liked his plan so much that they conspired to take over the company within weeks of buying a majority stake, firing him, and then proceeding with his business plan.
Jeff Brink, 54, and his brother, Greg, grew up in their father’s printing business, which spun into translation work in the 1980s. Merrill Corp., the St. Paul-based business-services company, acquired what had become family-owned P.H. Brink International in 2005.
In June 2016, Brink, backed by Northern Pacific, according to his lawsuit and statements at the time, acquired what is now ULG back from Merrill Corp, and also bought Minneapolis-based KJ International Resources, which specializes in language translation for medical clients.
That made ULG one of the 10 largest players in the fragmented global business-translation industry. It had consolidated revenue of about $42 million.
Jeff Brink negotiated a ULG salary of $250,000 plus bonus and a 5 percent stake in the consolidated company, according to his lawsuit. Brink was paid, starting in April, but he never signed an employment agreement.
According to Brink, in August, Northern principal Scott Honour fired Brink and his brother, saying Brink was not the “right guy” to lead the growing company.
The firing came with no announcement.
Northern Pacific has argued in court filings that Brink’s defamation suit should be consolidated into the private-arbitration proceeding that covers Brink’s employment and breach-of-contract claims.