The story of MTH vs. Lionel

Inc. Magazine published a story about the MTH v. Lionel lawsuit which ultimately led to a $40 million judgment against Lionel.The article has a lot of good information in it, including insights on how Lionel and MTH came to be such bitter rivals. There’s lots of hearsay out there but aside from combing through very old magazine articles I never found much about the MTH/Lionel relationship that existed in the 1990s. This article isn’t a complete picture either but it gives details that I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

The article mostly paints a sympathetic picture of MTH, at one place saying “[MTH owner] Mike [Wolf] is not sparkling lily white in all this,” but not really elaborating. But I can’t blame the author for this.
Mike Wolf and MTH are willing to talk and Lionel isn’t.

It’s a story of industrial espionage and the downsides of using (or being) contractors, outsourcing, and overproduction, and the rise and fall of the American Dream. The question, yet unresolved, is whether it’s Mike Wolf’s American Dream that’s falling, or Joshua Lionel Cowen’s. Or both.

Side note: Speaking as a journalist, this article is a good reason why it’s good to talk to the press, even when your lawyers may not want you to. You have to win, or at least compete, in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law. Run what you say through the lawyers if you have to, but make sure you say something. If you decline comment, the next-best place for the writer to get information about you is from the other side, which is the last place you want information about you to come from.

In this case, to look less like the bad guy, Lionel wouldn’t have had to say much of anything that damaged the case. Make some general statement about the case. Even if it’s rehashed from a press release, it looks better than “Lionel and its owners declined to comment for this story.” And then go in for the kill. “Why don’t you ask QSI what it thinks of MTH?” QSI is a former MTH subcontractor currently engaged in a separate lawsuit. QSI might not say much, but now the writer has some dirt on the rival to go chase down. It might have only resulted in one more line being in the story, something like, “Ironically, MTH, years after being a Lionel subcontractor, is now engaged in a separate and unrelated lawsuit with QSI, one of its former subcontractors.” With that information in the story, Lionel still doesn’t look like a poor, innocent little puppy (it isn’t), but it makes MTH look less like one (it isn’t either).

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