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Kenneth Cole shareholder lawsuit goes to NY top court

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole — who happens to be Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s brother-in-law — goes before New York’s highest court next week.

Or rather, his company does.

Lawyers for Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. will battle with disgruntled shareholders in a lawsuit the state Court of Appeals hears Wednesday. Cole has been seeking to take his company private and buy out minority shareholders. He negotiated a buyout price ($15.25 per share) with a committee specially created from his board of directors. In 2012, 99 percent of the minority shareholders voted to accept the price, according to court documents.

But a group of unhappy shareholders — including the Erie County Employees Retirement System — sued. They claimed, among other things, that the negotiating committee wasn’t independent of Cole because he had appointed them to the board. The shareholders said the board breached its fiduciary duty.

Cole, however, has prevailed at a trial-level court and a mid-level appellate bench.

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