Luxury consortium Virtuoso has countered allegations made in a lawsuit filed by JG Worldwide, calling the embattled travel company's claims "completely groundless and without merit."

In the complaint, which was filed with the New York State Supreme Court on Oct. 24, JG Worldwide accused Virtuoso of "publishing hideously defamatory statements" about the company's Heritage Tours and Revealed America tour operations. 

Moreover, JG alleged that Virtuoso's decision to suspend Heritage Tours and Revealed America from the Virtuoso network last February as well as to publicly accuse the suppliers of "late commission payments, service issues and nonresponsiveness" had negatively impacted business, causing "an immediate and widespread decrease in call volume," cancellations and financial losses.

JG Worldwide also said in the filing that the vast majority of its business and revenue was generated by the Virtuoso memberships of Heritage and Revealed, with JG claiming top-line revenue of nearly $30 million in 2018.

Additionally, the suit alleges 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 roughly $43 million in March 2017. The plaintiffs said that they declined the offer and opted to grow their business instead.

The lawsuit seeks minimum damages of $64.9 million.

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

Virtuoso disputes JG's account. In a statement released Oct. 29, the consortium said it plans to "aggressively defend Virtuoso against these baseless accusations."

In its statement, Virtuoso wrote, "We learned that two suppliers within the network were compromising this trust when multiple complaints from our members surfaced regarding Revealed America and Heritage Tours. In response, we began actively working toward the implementation of an agreed-upon corrective plan as put forth by Revealed America and Heritage Tours in an effort to bring them into compliance with Virtuoso standards. However, prior to implementing this corrective plan, Revealed America and Heritage Tours unilaterally terminated their relationship with the Virtuoso network."

Virtuoso went on to add that "every company and individual associated with Virtuoso is required to comply with the standards of quality and fairness."

The filing came roughly four months after JG Worldwide abruptly ceased operations, leaving stranded travelers and millions of dollars in unpaid bills, commissions and wages in its wake. In late July, the company 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 after JG failed to file any supporting documents.

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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