World-Famous type foundry, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, opened a new can of worms yesterday in New York City. Tobias Frere-Jones, one of the co-owners of the digital type firm, has initiated an ugly dispute against his business associate, Jonathan Hoefler, by filing a lawsuit on January 16th for half of their company’s typography.
Frere-Jones is claiming that Hoefler is a thief for deceiving him of half of the company’s assets and taking credit for several typefaces that do not belong to him, including the renowned “Whitney.” In 2004, Tobias also sold his previously developed fonts to Hoefler for $10, when their actual worth was $3 million. Frere-Jones has designed over 800 fonts in 145 languages that are used in newspapers, magazines, advertising, websites and other legendary corporate designs around the world. Hoefler started his business, The Hoefler Type Foundry, in 1989, but approached Frere-Jones in 1999, proposing to give him half the ownership of his company, which in exchange would change the operating name to Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Hoefler agreed to be the businessman and use his marketing skills to sell their fonts while Frere-Jones took on the position of a principal designer that would create new typefaces, troubleshoot, and train future designers.
Tobias attempted to approach Jonathan last summer, but Hoefler would not oblige to their personal negotiation, leaving Frere-Jones with no choice but to commence a legal war against him. The lawsuit accuses Hoefler of violating the verbal agreement they started when Frere-Jones left The Font Bureau (or known as Dowry Fonts) in 1999. The lawsuit states, “In the most profound treachery and sustained exploitation of friendship, trust and confidence, Hoefler accepted all of the benefits provided by Frere-Jones while repeatedly promising Frere-Jones that he would give him the agreed equity, only to refuse to do so when finally demanded.”
Frere-Jones is asking for $20 million in compensation and a formal agreement that he owns half of their company. A copy of the full-lawsuit can be viewed here.