JOHNSTOWN – The ex-wife of the founder of Chobani yogurt claims her former husband bribed someone to obtain the Chobani yogurt formula from Fage, which has a factory in the Johnstown Industrial Park.
Ayse Giray’s allegation is included in court documents related to her multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Hamdi Ulukaya.
Giray, of New York City, claims Ulukaya bribed a former Fage employee to obtain the formula for his Chobani yogurt in Chenango County.
Ulukaya is the owner of Euphrates cheese company in the Johnstown Industrial Park and Chobani in Norwich. Chobani claims it is America’s top Greek yogurt.
An affidavit from Giray states, “Commencing in 2007, on numerous occasions, Hamdi boasted to me that he had obtained the formula for the Chobani brand of yogurt from Fage yogurt by bribing a former employee of Fage. He mentioned that he traveled to Europe and bribed this employee with 30,000 Euros.”
That currently equals about $42,000.
Ulukaya could not be reached for comment, but the New York Daily News reported Ulukaya has filed court papers saying Giray’s allegations are baseless.
According to court papers, Giray filed a civil lawsuit against Ulukaya, Euphrates and Chobani in state Supreme Court in New York City in October 2012. The case will go to a conference again May 14.
Giray alleges Ulukaya owes her $530 million through various transactions involving the company. Giray claims she owns 53 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of both the Euphrates and Chobani companies, and made a $500,000 original investment in Euphrates.
The lawsuit states Giray and Ulukaya – both of whom are Turkish – met in Manhattan in 1997, were married and divorced by June 1999, although both “remained close friends and in business thereafter.”
Court papers say the pair in September 1997 formed Euphrates Inc., primarily producing feta cheese in Johnstown.
Failing to return phone calls or emails seeking comment were Ulukaya; Giray’s counsel, New York City attorney Richard Feldman; and Fage USA spokesman Russell Evans.
President Barack Obama on Monday appointed Ulukaya a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, or PAGE. The honor is bestowed on successful business leaders who are committed to developing the next generation of entrepreneurs, a news release said.
A story in England’s The Daily Mail on Friday stated Giray also alleges Ulukaya paid $1 million to Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira to settle a case about the improper disposal of yogurt.
Sira on Tuesday denied the allegation. She said about $1 million was part of a settlement made by Ulukaya and Euphrates regarding waste disposal investigated by Johnstown authorities.
Euphrates in December 2009 paid $985,000 to the Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility through a consent order that ended a criminal investigation into whether the cheese company disabled the sewer system’s monitoring equipment, enabling the company to dump whey waste into the system without being accurately charged for it.
The investigation into Euphrates came to light in July 2009 when Sira confirmed city police were investigating the matter.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.