Embattled travel group JG Worldwide has filed a lawsuit against Virtuoso, alleging that the luxury travel agency network destroyed JG's reputation after "publishing hideously defamatory statements" about the company's Heritage Tours and Revealed America supplier offshoots.

The claim, which was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York on Thursday, seeks minimum damages of $64.9 million.

In the suit, JG Worldwide says that Virtuoso's decision to suspend Heritage Tours and Revealed America from the Virtuoso network last February and publicly accuse the suppliers of "late commission payments, service issues and non-responsiveness" negatively impacted business, causing "an immediate and widespread decrease in call volume," cancellations and financial losses.

The company also alleges requests made to Virtuoso to provide proof of any late payments, service issues and non-responsiveness went unanswered. 

According to JG Worldwide, the vast majority of its business and revenues were generated by the Virtuoso memberships of Heritage and Revealed. In the filing, JG Worldwide claims top-line revenue of nearly $30 million in 2018. 

The suit also claims that Certares -- which owns Travel Leaders Group, is a shareholder of American Express Global Business Travel and has an investment in AmaWaterways, among other companies -- made an offer to buy the plaintiffs’ business for $43,262,290 in March 2017. The plaintiffs said in the suit that they declined the offer "and instead continued to grow their business over the next couple of years."

"In an abrupt, knee-jerk, unjustified, unlawful, intentional, malicious and despicable move, Virtuoso literally destroyed [JG Worldwide] overnight,” wrote lawyer James J. DeCristofaro in the claim, while adding that Virtuoso's actions were also "a death knell" for JG owners Jena Gardner and James Saleh.

The filing comes roughly four months after JG Worldwide abruptly ceased operations, leaving stranded travelers and millions in unpaid bills, commissions and wages in its wake. As of late July, around a half-dozen lawsuits had been filed against JG Worldwide and Gardner and Saleh.

On July 24, JG Worldwide filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, claiming the company had up to $10 million in debts and no assets to pay creditors. The case was dismissed, however, after the company failed to file any supporting documentation.

When asked for a response, Virtuoso stated: "Virtuoso has not reviewed any court filing by JG and cannot comment on pending litigation. Virtuoso has and will continue to act in the best interest of its membership."
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Correction: Certares is a shareholder of American Express Global Business Travel.

Update: This story has been updated with information that JG Worldwide’s bankruptcy case was dismissed.

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