Doug Ford calls allegations in sister-in-law's lawsuit 'false and without merit'

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is calling the lawsuit filed by his late brother Rob's widow "heartbreaking," and says claims he and his brother Randy have mismanaged finances at the Ford family companies are "false and without merit."

Renata Ford says mismanagement of the Ford family businesses has cost her and her children

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford on the campaign trail Tuesday. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is calling the lawsuit filed by his late brother Rob's widow "heartbreaking," and says claims he and his brother Randy have mismanaged finances at the Ford family companies are "false and without merit."

On Tuesday, the former Toronto city councillor faced the media for the first time since news of the lawsuit became public Monday night. In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Ontario Superior Court, Renata Ford alleges Doug and Randy "conspired together" to deprive her and her children of shares in the family company Deco Toronto and the proceeds of a life insurance policy.

The brothers are trustees for their late brother's estate.

"Those claims are false and without merit. And it will be very clear when we prove that in court," Ford told reporters Tuesday morning.

"This is about two kids and honestly it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking that Renata's taking this road. I'd do anything for those kids."

The allegations, none of which have been proven in court, come just days before the Ontario provincial election, which sees Ford's Progressive Conservatives in a tight race with the New Democrats.

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The suit claims $5 million in damages for each of the three plaintiffs: Renata Ford and her two children, Stephanie and Douglas. It also claims a further $250,000 against each of the five defendants: three Ford companies, as well as Doug and his brother Randy.

The suit alleges that in the early part of 2017, Deco Companies was reorganized and that led to a loss of some $6 million.

After the death of Doug Ford Sr. in 2006, the suit claims, Doug and Randy Ford arranged for "extravagant" salaries for themselves, which included bonuses, travel and allowances for vehicles, "regardless of the financial performance" of the businesses.

It goes on to claim that the brothers did not implement a business plan for the companies and that neither "have the education and business ability to justify their" positions as senior members of the companies, and that Doug Ford took funds from his brother's estate to help prop up businesses in Toronto and Chicago.

'Sad and distressing,' Wynne says

On Tuesday morning, the Ontario NDP issued a statement about the lawsuit, saying it shows the PC leader "is not the business tycoon he claims to be."

The statement goes on to say that he "has promised to run the province like a business."

"But if he can't run his own business properly, how can he be trusted to run the province? And if this is how Doug Ford treats his own brother's family, how will he treat everyone else's families?"

On Twitter, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne called the lawsuit "sad and distressing."

"It's sad because it draws in family. It's distressing because this is the kind of thing we will get daily from Doug Ford as premier. Chaos and confusion. It's not what Ontario needs."  

During a Tuesday morning news conference, Ford did not directly answer a question about how much money he receives from Deco, or if he will release the company's financial statements.

He said the issue isn't about Deco, but ensuring that his brother's children are well cared for.

"I've protected Renata in the toughest times, in front of the media, for the last god knows how long, for 15 years, 15 years of taking care of her both financially, personally," Ford said.

"I've bent over backwards, broken down brick walls taking care of Renata. Where this is coming from, you have to ask her."

There may also be another question for Renata, on the future of her and the late mayor's home, where a "for sale" sign now hangs on the lawn.

A "for sale" sign now hangs outside the former Toronto mayor's home. (Darak Zdzienicki/CBC)

Don H. Jack, a lawyer for Renata, would not comment on the the sign. Phone calls by CBC News to the number on the sign went to a voicemail for Renata Ford and were not returned.

Rob Ford, who represented Etobicoke as a city councillor for years, was elected mayor of Toronto in 2010 and served until Nov. 30, 2014. During his run for a second term, he was diagnosed with cancer and withdrew from the race. He died in March 2016.

With files from Shanifa Nasser, Derick Deonarain