A California judge on Tuesday diverted ownership of Bikram Choudhury's yoga college, as well as various franchise agreements and intellectual properties, to his former attorney who is owed millions from a sexual harassment case that was decided by jury earlier this year.
Plaintiff Minakshi Jafa-Bodden was awarded $6.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages in January after alleging she was sexually harassed and ultimately fired by Choudhury, 72, after she began investigating rape allegations against him.
Jafa-Bodden’s attorney, Carla Minnard, told Club Industry that Choudhury has “fled the country to avoid payment." Minnard and Jafa-Bodden now intend to pursue a bench warrant for Choudhury’s arrest in the United States and abroad. Choudhury rose to prominence in the United States after founding Bikram Yoga, a style of hot yoga, in the 1970s.
To satisfy the January judgment, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark A. Borenstein granted Jafa-Bodden’s petition for the assignment order on Dec. 13. Borenstein also approved a receiver to sell the yoga mogul’s properties, including the Los Angeles-based Bikram's Yoga College of India, on Jafa-Bodden’s behalf, according to a report by Law360. This includes vendor and studio franchise agreements, as well as licensing and royalty payments from Choudhury’s copyrights and trademark.
However, Minnard told Club Industry that at this time it is unclear whether Jafa-Bodden will simply take ownership of Choudhury's assets, or whether the receiver will sell the assets on her behalf. Particulars depend on the plaintiff-receiver relationship, Minnard said.
“I can tell you what [Jaffa-Bodden] won’t do—she won’t continue Bikram’s tradition of abuse and harassment and retaliation," Minnard said. "Beyond that, it is too soon to tell [what she’ll do].”
Borenstein said he will reconsider the latter portion of the motion—which would allow the receiver to claim Choudhury’s intellectual properties and even Web domains—calling the parameters “broader than I would have done,” according to Law360.
This is a timely victory, Minnard said, alleging Choudhury is currently “attempting to hide assets, transfer assets and sell assets in order to avoid paying what the court has ordered him to pay.”
Jafa-Bodden is also seeking additional assets from Choudhury, including stocks, a diamond watch and several luxury vehicles, Law360 reported and Minnard confirmed to Club Industry.
Choudhury is suspected to be in his native India and did not appear in court Tuesday. His legal counsel also was absent, Law360 reported and Minnard confirmed. Club Industry reached out to Simon Langer, who had represented Choudhury previously, but Langer said he no longer represents Choudhury and did not know who Choudhury's current lawyer is.
Choudhury is being held in contempt for failing to appear for a court-ordered debtor’s examination, Minnard said. This would require that Choudhury testify under oath about his assets.
“We are seeking a bench warrant for his arrest … so that he cannot simply flee the country and go set up his business in another part of the world and begin the same cycle of harassment and abuse that he engaged in in this country for decades,” Minnard told Club Industry. “We will not stop until every penny of the judgment is collected and until Bikram and his businesses have been held accountable for the verdict that the people of Los Angeles handed down.”
In October, Choudhury was featured on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He denied all rape and sexual harassment allegations against him in the interview with Andrea Kremer, calling his accusers “trash” and “psychopath[s].”