When it comes to reality TV, success and popularity usually go in hand with scandals and legal issues. The same can be said about the worldwide known “American Chopper” and its main star Paul Teutul Sr, who besides being a prominent businessman and bike builder, is also well-known for being prone to trouble both on and off screen.

While Paul Sr’s personal issues include his severed family bonds, addictions and a considerable number of lawsuits against him, in recent years his serious financial difficulties have also taken a prominent space in his life.

So is it true that Paul Teutul Sr owes lots of money to a photographer? What is his current financial situation, and what has happened to his business in recent years? Stay here to know all about the money issues faced by the Teutul patriarch, and so much more!

Does He Owe Money To A Photographer?

Unfortunately, Paul Teutul Sr is no stranger to controversy and legal problems, which is why the fact that he was sued by a photographer isn’t surprising for those who have been following him closely.

According to reports, in 2013 a Pennsylvanian man named Scott Gunnells took pics of Paul Sr’s youngest son Michael Teutul, and registered them under copyright laws. Nonetheless, around 2018, Gunnells found out that not only had Michael been using his photos without permission for his social media, and to promote his art events, but also that his work had been used in “American Chopper” and its merchandise brand, having deleted his watermark.

How much money was made from the merchandise sale was undisclosed, but it was apparently enough for a New York court to rule in Gunnells’ favor by ordering Discovery, Pilgrim Media Group, Paul Sr and Michael to pay him $258,484.45 in damages. While the debt was most likely paid right away, this case is only one of the failed legal battles Paul Sr has faced in recent years, which have taken a toll on his financial situation.

Fraud Lawsuit

Being ordered to pay over $200,000 was surely a strong hit for Paul Sr, but it certainly wasn’t his first time in court for issues related to money, as back in April 2017, was sued for fraud by a former business partner.

Reportedly, in 2015 Thomas Derbyshire allegedly founded the production of “American Chopper”s spin-off “American Made”, which would feature both Paul Sr and actor Rusty Coones from the Drama series “Sons Of Anarchy” as well. However, Derbyshire stated that not only had Paul Sr refused to film alongside Coones as his contract stated, but also that he used the production’s money to pay his son Michael’s salary, without authorization, on top of trying to change the deal to receive a bigger cut of the profits.

All these accusations were denied by Paul Sr’s lawyers, who told Page Six that: ‘Derbyshire’s interpretation of said events is without merit​’, also adding that ‘the timing is very suspect of once again untrue allegations’, due to its closeness to “American Choppers”’s 2018 revival. No further information about the case has been revealed.

Breach In Contract Lawsuit

Another one of Paul Teutul Sr’s money-related legal battles took place in late 2018, when he was sued by a car shop for breach of contract. It goes back to August that year, when Paul Sr commissioned the JTM Motorsports to modify his 2009 Corvette ZR1, in exchange of featuring their business in “American Choppers”, which revival aired that year.

However, Paul Sr allegedly failed to comply with his part of the deal, leading the company to sue him for breach of contract, demanding that he repay the money the company spent in the car’s reparation, plus storage time, amounting to over $50,000.

Later JTM Motorsports chose to waive the storage fees charges, but their repayment claims were ruled valid by the court, which ordered Paul Sr to pay $30,000 when the case was sealed in January 2019. Nonetheless, by May that year Paul Sr had failed to pay the awarded money, and was ordered to pay $17,000 right away.

That being said, Paul Sr’s inability to comply with the initial court’s ruling was caused by his then severe financial problems, which even led him to file for bankruptcy in late 2018.

Image source

Was Paul Sr Bankrupt?

Unfortunately, Paul Sr’s repeated legal issues eventually took a toll on his personal finances, leading him to file for Bankruptcy in February 2018.

According to reports, Paul Sr’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy application allowed him to reschedule repayment plans for his creditors to whom he owed $1,070,893.44. These debts were worrisome considering Paul Sr then current net worth was $1,801,729, and was largely the interest fees of his New York home. Other details in the case point out that Paul Sr’s monthly income was little over $15,000 at the time, but his expenses were $12,612.

While it was revealed that Paul Sr owed over $150,000 in taxes plus thousands to credit card companies and in medical bills, it was also reported there was a judgment against him of $32,000, though it’s unknown from which legal battle that debt originated.

Although at the time “American Choppers” revival was yet to premiere, it was evident that Paul Sr’s financial situation was worsening with time, reaching a new low in April 2019, when his trustee accused him of not providing enough documentation about his income and tax returns, thus putting in doubt receiving legal protection was appropriate in his case.

Did He Sell His Home?

At the point when Paul Sr’s situation looked ghastly, he found a way out of it by selling his New York home in 2019. Nonetheless, he faced numerous troubles before recovering.

Reportedly, the Teutul patriarch took a millionaire mortgage to build said home back in 2005, lowering his monthly payments two times prior to 2017, when he allegedly still owed $870,939.43. In order to seal his mortgage and pay other debts, Paul Sr put the 32-acre homestead up for sale for $2.9 million, though later lowering the price to $2.49 million.

By the time he filed for bankruptcy in 2018, the value of his home was apparently $1.8 million, quite a difference from the sale price he initially put on it. As the bankruptcy case progressed, the sale of the mansion seemed to stagnate to say the least, until in May 2019 he finally sold it for $1.9 million, however, other valuable assets were included in the deal, such as boats, tools, animals and machinery, on top of the already attractive features the home had, such as a volleyball court, a barn and even waterfalls.

Certainly saying goodbye to his home was difficult for Paul Teutul Sr, but the deal was necessary to settle his financial problems at the time.

Was Orange County Choppers Demolished?

One of the most memorable moments in “American Choppers” history took place in 2020, with the premiere of the spin-off “The Last Ride”, featuring Paul Sr and his son Paul Jr working together for the first time in a decade.

While it was mentioned in the show that Orange County Choppers was moving to Florida, as its headquarters were soon to be demolished, apparently the building still exists. According to a report by the local radio station WGNA, by August 2022 the old Orange County Choppers headquarters were still standing, though some damage to the structure, broken glass and destroyed floors was evident.

NEW! After hearing about demolition plans for the old OCC building, Junior asks his dad to build one last bike together…

Posted by Paul Teutul Sr on Sunday, August 2, 2020

The property is allegedly abandoned nowadays, which is sad considering that in January 2021, some plans of repurposing the structure were under way. As WPDH reported then, some considered that the property might serve as housing for homeless people in the community, while others thought about transforming it into a new business.

It’s unknown why plans for bringing new life to the building haven’t seen the light of day so far, but any fan of “American Choppers” would surely feel nostalgic at seeing the old Orange County Choppers basement in such a bad condition.

What Businesses Did Paul Sr Have?

Long before even thinking of owning a chopper building business, Paul Teutul Sr was already an accomplished businessman. In the early 1970s, Paul Sr founded his first business in co-partnership with John Grosso, his long-time friend and drinking partner.

As the business grew, Paul Sr’s alcoholic tendencies grew to an unbearable point; it wasn’t until he sobered up in 1985 that he saw things in a different light, deciding that his old business wasn’t enough. Paul Sr’s renewed drive resulted in him breaking his partnership with Grosso, building a new shop, and the business just kept growing: ‘I ended up tripling the size of the facility and renting another building down the street’, he recalled in his autobiography “The Ride of a Lifetime”.

Paul Sr passed from having a couple of employees to hiring dozens, but not everything was positive. By the time Orange County Iron Works was at its peak, Paul Sr’s choice to stay away from alcohol rifted his friendship with Grosso, who died six months after leaving his employee position in the shop.

Despite that unfortunate personal loss, Paul Sr focused on growing his business until that also wasn’t enough. In 1999, the Teutul patriarch left Iron Works in the hands of his family, passing on to making his dream of building bikes a reality.

Founding Orange County Choppers

While the official start of Orange County Chopper occurred in 1999, Paul Sr had been building bikes long before that. According to his 2009 autobiography, in the early 1970s he was buying vintage parts from a local distributor named Ted Doering, who owned a business called V-Twin Manufacturing at the time.

Although Doering would rise to fame some decades later, as a major distributor for bike parts, at the time he was a small business owner who also wasn’t a fan of what Paul Sr did to the articles he bought from him. Nonetheless, that small detail didn’t stop them from becoming friends, with Doering also became Paul Sr’s mentor: ‘He was the guy who would point me in the right direction in terms of the parts I needed to build the bike I wanted to create’, he wrote.

Those were Paul Sr’s beginnings in the business, but still taking a couple of decades before actually entering the custom bike building industry. Then just a couple of months after starting Orange County Choppers, his shop’s creations were in chopper events all around the US.

Fraud Accusations

As Paul Sr entirely focused on Orange County Choppers, his old metalworking business was about to fall down an unfortunate route.

As it happens, in 1999 Paul Sr reportedly sold Orange County Iron Works Inc to his oldest son Paul Teutul Jr, but stil remained as an employee of the business. Upon the success of Orange County Choppers, Jr apparently chose to close Iron Works Inc, and buy a share of the custom bike building shop. However, Paul Sr’s second son Daniel kept the former business alive by buying its assets for $185,000 in 2004.

Unfortunately, Iron Works Inc didn’t last long after that, as in 2005 a company named Turner Construction filed and won a lawsuit for $1.3 million for breach of contract against Iron works. The business filed for bankruptcy right after the court’s ruling, but were accused of fraud in 2007 by their case’s trustee Tom Genova, for having allegedly transferred Iron Works Inc’s assets to a new company named Orange County Ironworks LLC, a business’ move he considered hindering their obligations to the old company’s debtors.

The case was finally closed in 2009, as Ironworks LLC and Genova came to a $500,000 settlement.

That's my son Dan. He took over my old business Orange County Iron Works and built it up to be one of the largest steel fabricating businesses in NY So proud of him.

Posted by Paul Teutul Sr on Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What Happened To “American Chopper”?

While it’s evident that neither Paul Sr nor the rest of the family avoid legal troubles, the future seems bright for Orange County Choppers.

Upon the closure of its old New York headquarters, Paul Sr and his team moved to their new building in Florida, named Orange County Choppers Roadhouse & Museum, officially opened in mid-2021, to offer clientele a bar and grill experience, and a bike museum in the same place, while the business still builds custom choppers next door.

While the move was meant as a fresh start for Paul Sr, it was also a decision he expected to favor him on the business-side: ‘there’s more of a sense of freedom in Florida, more of a fan base and you can ride for about nine months out of the year’, he told Times Herald Record.

For now it’s unknown if this new chapter in Orange County Choppers’ story will bring back a revival of “American Chopper” as well, but it’s relieving to see that Paul Sr’s legendary business is still alive, despite the variety of difficulties he’s faced so far.

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