America’s Test Kitchen and Christopher Kimball have settled a three-year-old lawsuit that kicked off when ATK sued its co-founder and erstwhile public face. The case had been scheduled to go to a jury trial in October.
“America’s Test Kitchen and Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street agree that an amicable separation is in the best interest of their respective companies,” reads a statement released by both parties.
ATK sued Kimball in Massachusetts’s Suffolk County Superior Court in 2016, weeks after Kimball’s new venture, Milk Street magazine, hit newsstands and the year after Kimball was terminated from ATK. The lawsuit accused him of ripping off the ATK concept for Milk Street, which like ATK includes television, publishing and radio assets. ATK also alleged that Kimball used company resources while working to launch Milk Street, engaged in “corporate theft” regarding media lists and recipes and failed in his fiduciary duties to ATK, where he was still a partial owner. Kimball responded by denying many of the allegations and claiming that he was damaged by what he called ATK’s “defamatory” and “baseless” campaign against him.
As part of the settlement, Kimball has returned his shares in ATK to the company for an undisclosed price. “In addition, the parties have agreed to business terms that will allow [the publications] to coexist in the marketplace,” according to the statement.
“I’m very happy,” Kimball said in an interview Thursday. “It’s been almost three years. I think it’s good news for both of us.”
“I love history, but I don’t love personal history,” he said. “I think sometimes you just have to move on. … I think it would have been awkward still being there as a partner. I think it’s better that we just separate.”
“ATK is thrilled with the settlement,” the company said in a separate statement. (The Post works with ATK on guides to cooking and equipment, sharing affiliate link revenue.) “Recouping Mr. Kimball’s shares in ATK was very important for the growth and future of the company.”
Kimball said there’s enough room in the food marketplace for both ventures. He said it has taken until about now to figure out Milk Street’s approach. Its tagline is “change the way you cook,” and when it launched, Kimball told The Washington Post his goal was to share “a whole new way of thinking about cooking,” often inspired by global flavors and techniques.
Readers and viewers should not notice any changes to Milk Street, Kimball said, adding that the settlement will free up time and money to further build the brand. Kimball said he would like to “ramp up” more aspects of Milk Street, including a recently launched online store.
ATK says it, too, has been doing things differently. “In the last three years, much has changed at ATK as it as evolved into a food and cooking media company. New successful launches include the podcast, PROOF, and the multichannel children’s food company, ATK Kids,” it said in its statement. “The company has dramatically expanded its YouTube channel as well as its digital subscription offerings and also added food festivals and other live events.”
Two of Kimball’s co-defendants — Christine Gordon, Kimball’s former executive assistant at ATK, and Deborah Broide, who worked as a public relations consultant for ATK — were dismissed from the lawsuit this year. Melissa Baldino, his wife and a former ATK employee, was also part of the settlement.