SEATTLE — A lawsuit filed last week sheds new light on the collapse of five Seattle-area motorcycle dealerships that left employees without jobs, customers without bikes, and the motorcycle community with questions about the plans — or even the whereabouts — of the owner.
VW Credit, a Delaware company that lends to car and motorcycle dealerships to buy inventory, on Wednesday sued Howard Crow, a Microsoft program manager-turned-motorcycle dealer whose NobleRush chain of dealerships was abruptly shut down last week.
In the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, VW Credit claims that Crow and several of his companies defaulted on nearly $2.7 million in loans used to finance the purchase of 170 Ducati motorcycles and other equipment for his dealerships in Redmond Town Center and Seattle.
The lawsuit claims that Crow and his companies failed to make some payments on the bike loans and have refused to voluntarily surrender the bikes, which served as collateral for the loans. The suit also contends that Crow “is out of the country, with no definitive timeline for his return.”
Crow’s Ducati dealerships, along with three other dealerships — a BMW store in Seattle and two multibrand dealerships in Auburn — have been shuttered since Sept. 19, when employees and customers arrived to find the doors closed and, in some cases, moving crews hauling off dozens of bikes.
Crow began acquiring the dealerships in 2012 and rebranding them under the name NobleRush. A veteran Microsoft program manager and motorcycle enthusiast, he could not be reached for comment.
Several former employees and customers said they had been told that the 52-year-old Sammamish resident has been traveling out of the country — some have said to India — for business since the closures.
In the meantime, skeleton crews of former employees, said to be working without pay, spent days dealing with frantic customers to deliver bikes that had been paid for or brought in for service, or refunding deposits.
According to the suit, in May 2018, Crow and several of his companies — Sammamish-based Corsa Holdings, Ducati Seattle, and Redmond-based Bellemoto — entered into an agreement with VW Credit for the financing of “a large volume of motorcycles and other vehicles and equipment.”
That ultimately included 170 motorcycles from Ducati, maker of high-performance, high-end bikes that have become cultural icons (Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves ride one in “The Matrix Reloaded”) and are popular among the younger riding set.
The suit says 87 of the Ducatis went to the Seattle location and the other 83 went to the Ducati location in Redmond. The bikes, some new and some used, range in price from around $7,000 to around $32,000, according to the lawsuit.
Former employees and local dealers speculate that Crow tried to be the Puget Sound region’s low-cost dealer by slashing his retail prices, but ended up running out of cash and getting into trouble with his creditors.
That appears to have been the case with VW Credit, which earlier this month received several indications that NobleRush might be in trouble, according to the lawsuit.
After visiting both Ducati dealerships and finding them closed and after learning that Crow was out of the country, VW Credit notified Crow and his companies that they were in default and demanded that they either pay VW Credit some $2.6 million by Sept. 24 or surrender the Ducati inventory, the suit says.
When neither payment nor collateral were forthcoming, VW declared Crow and his affiliates in default and filed the lawsuit.