Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Where’s my lawyer?
It turns out that my dear friend Larry Ruvo and I share the same lawyer. Normally, that wouldn’t cause a problem because one thing we learn in law school — yes, I did that a lifetime ago — is to multitask. Not only do we learn to handle more than one client at a time, but it is an economic necessity that we do so. So sharing shouldn’t be a problem.
Unless two clients need the lawyer at the same time. Lawyers are not like doctors; when a doctor is needed, it may be to save a life, so it doesn’t help when the doc says, “Wait a few days, and I will be right with you.”
Lawyers say that all the time. That is what my lawyer told me last week when I called and needed some help “right now.” He told me he was busy in trial with my friend Larry. Now, I know Larry Ruvo well, so despite lawyers’ claims to be able to focus on two matters at once, I knew that could not happen. Let’s just say Mr. Ruvo is a focused man. And in this case, he was focused on making a point in court, and there was no time for any distractions.
So, having a personality that hovers at the opposite end of the scale from the type A that afflicts my friend, I figured my problems could wait. In the meantime, since I am in a profession that is naturally curious, I used the time to see what the big deal was with Larry’s legal matter.
It turns out that the man who has grown Southern Wine & Spirits into one of the most respected businesses in this state was at it again. He was spending what I can only guess is millions of dollars to prove his point. Not many people will do that, choosing instead to save their money and let principle be damned. But not Larry.
The case, which continues this week in Judge Mark Denton’s courtroom, has been kicking around in the courts for more than 10 years with the end finally in sight — maybe.
To understand why Larry is pressing this matter, and why my lawyer is mostly unavailable for wise counsel, you have to understand Ruvo’s business and community mindset; they are one and the same. You also have to understand what Las Vegas’ tourist economy really means to the 2 million people who live here and the rest of Nevada that depends on our success.
I can’t think of any individual in this community who has given more, and more consistently, to practically every charitable cause in existence than my friend. There isn’t a charity dinner in town that doesn’t owe a great deal of its success to Ruvo’s long-standing practice of providing the appropriate spirit for the charitable endeavor. Cases of it.
That desire to give back to his community — in most cases without any chance of a return credit — is what makes Larry the kind of person we should all want more of in our community. And what he gives is important to him. He deals in wines and alcohol. And he deals in the genuine articles.
That is what this decadelong lawsuit is about. Fortunately, for both of us, it is about over. The case, which has mostly been decided by now, is about the violation of Nevada law regarding the importation and selling of wines and champagnes. It seems there were some folks who apparently decided not to abide by Nevada law, which requires alcohol be sold through licensed dealers — wholesalers, if you will — such as Southern Wine.
Not only does this illegal type of “gray market” activity cut into the profits of the wholesalers — something worth fighting for by any businessperson — but it can do far worse. Which brings me back to the very nature of Las Vegas and its tourist economy.
We are a city based on trust. Everything we do in our tourism and gaming economy is based on the simple belief that those who come to Las Vegas to enjoy themselves — to eat, drink and be merry and, oh yes, to gamble — will get a fair shake. The games will be fair, the prices will be fair and that which they drink they can be certain is authentic.
There are many stories about wine buyers being sold phony wines; yes, fraud knows no bounds. Worse yet, there was a recent story about wedding guests getting sick and even dying because what they thought they bought — quality wine — was really some cheap and poisonous fakery. In short, it is hard to tell what you are buying or drinking until the cork comes out and the product actually is consumed. By then, it can be too late.
That is why Nevada has strict laws to hold wholesalers and producers responsible by making sure the products they produce and sell are the real thing. Can you imagine what would happen if the champagnes people pay big bucks for on New Year’s turned out to be fakes? Those are headlines that would keep on giving Las Vegas a bad name throughout the year. I don’t even want to think what the headlines would say if people, as has happened elsewhere, actually got sick.
So, Ruvo is fighting for that principle. Since the liability issues have long been litigated, this latest fight is just about how much it is going to cost those who wouldn’t abide by the laws of our state. That’s what the lawyers are arguing about. If I know Larry, which I do, he has spent millions on this principle, so he probably wants his principal back.
Me? I want my lawyer back. I have some principles of my own that need attention.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.