Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhodes Inc. sued its biggest stockholder yesterday, accusing Wickes Companies Inc. and is subsidiary Gamble-Skogmo Inc. of trying to manipulate the market for Garfinckel's stock.
Garfinckel's asked the U.S. District Court here to issue an injunction stopping the allegedly illegal action by Wickes and Gamble, which owns 21 percent of Garfinckel's.
The lawsuit was the latest move by Garfinckel's management to head off a possible takeover fight or a bidding war for control of the Washington retail conglomerate.
Repeating charges made last week by Garfinckel's executives, the lawsuit accuses Wickes of making false reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The suit contends Wickes has violated a 1979 agreement not to buy more Garfinckel stock or sell its 927,000 shares without first consulting with Garfinckel's.
Wickes officials were not available for comment yesterday.
The lawsuit charges "Wickes and Gamble have embarked upon an unlawful scheme . . . to dispose of their Garfinckel common stock at an artifically inflated price."
The petition accues Wickes and Gamble of trying "to make Garfinckel a likely target for a takeover attempt by some outside party" and thereby inflate the price of the stock.
Garfinckel's in effect asked the federal court to enforce an agreement made in 1979 to settle a previous legal action between the two firms. After Gambles bought the stock in 1978, Garfinckel sued, accusing Gambles of violating federal antitrust and securities laws.
Garfinckel's lawsuit claims the agreement prohibits Gamble from buying any additional stock and prohibits Gambles from selling its shares without first offering them to Garfinckel's. After the deal was made, Gamble's was taken over by Wickes; Garfinckel's insists the agreement is still binding on the new owners.
Recently Wickes and Gambles filed reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating they are reconsidering their plans for the Garfinckel stock.
In the lawsuit filed yesterday, Garfinckel's charged that the SEC report is "false and misleading," because it did not mention the agreement.