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Business Observer Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 9 years ago

Diamond CEO: Gemesis owes $500K for wrong firing

Lawsuit from Stephen Lux, former CEO of Gemesis, is latest setback for firm.

SARASOTA — Stephen Lux, the former CEO at Gemesis, a synthetic diamond manufacturer, has sued the company for wrongful termination and not paying him at least $500,000 in wages.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 10 in Sarasota County Circuit Court, contends Lux's employee contract states he's entitled to 18 months of salary if he's fired without cause. Lux's salary, according to court records, was $375,000 a year, so that would entitle him to $562,500. The suit further alleges Gemesis owes Lux 400 hours of vacation time and other benefits, including health care and $12,000 a year of car allowance.

Lux's attorneys, Robert Persante of Clearwater and Cynthia Fallon of Sarasota, couldn't be reached for comment today. An official with the public relations firm that represents Gemesis, Raleigh, N.C.-based French/West/Vaughan, responded via email that as a private company, Gemesis "doesn't publicly discuss financial or legal matters."

But the suit is the latest setback for the firm, now called Gemesis Diamond Co. The company, which once operated out of a 60,000-square-foot facility in Lakewood Ranch, has moved into a smaller facility nearby. It also recently changed its business model, from selling to wholesalers to a more retail-focused approach.

The firm, founded in 1995 and much celebrated by local media and officials in the mid-2000s, uses machines that replicate the conditions under which diamonds are created in nature. The machines apply about 850,000 pounds of pressure per square inch and extreme heat to a tiny synthetic or diamond.

Lux was hired to run the company in October 2006. On Dec. 11 Lux notified the lead shareholders of the firm that he intended to resign, effective March 1, 2013, according the lawsuit.

But Gemesis, the suit alleges, rejected the resignation and deactivated Lux's email on Dec. 17. The company then gave Lux another resignation letter to sign. “At the same time that Lux was provided the new resignation letter,” the suit contends, “he was also provided with a termination letter in the event that he did not sign the new resignation letter.”

The lawsuit alleges Lux was then fired without cause and the company changed the locks at the corporate office. Lux, with a master's degree in chemical engineering, previously worked for a chemical firm in New Jersey and St. Louis-based agricultural giant Monsanto.

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