Regardless of whether you are a fan of reality TV, you have probably heard of “American Chopper” or you would at least recognize its star and head of the stop, Paul Teutul, with his signature handlebar mustache, tattoos, motorcycle gear and tough-guy image. Along with his sons, Paul and Mike, Teutul rose to stardom with his reality show “American Chopper” where he gruffly shows his sons the rops of running a chopper business. As the show gained in popularity, Teutul successfully launched a line of clothing promoting the OCC, or Orange County Chopper brand.
Despite building a small empire with his sons and becoming quite famous, Teutul has found himself in hot water. He recently filed for bankruptcy, listing debts to his various creditors that greatly outweigh his assets.
Additionally, Teutul is being sued for fraud by a former business partner of him. Teutul has been accused of purposely sabotaging a television project, which in turn cost his partner millions of dollars. Teutul is now being asked to pay up.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. American Chopper Was Being Revived by The Discovery Channel
“American Chopper” went from earning modest success to skyrocketing in popularity during its previous iteration. After a brief hiatus, the OCC crew was in talks with the Discovery Channel and the parties were considering a reboot on a massive scale. The stars of the show would be Teutul and his son, Paul Jr., and their trials and tribulations in the shop while building some of the most sought after custom built bikes in the world.
“In the new show, the duo ‘set out reclaim their preeminent bike brands and – hopefully, rebuild some sort of relationship … with A-list celebrities, world famous athletes and Forbes 100 businesses as clients, millions of dollars and their brands’ reputations are on the line with every signature build,’” EW reports.
However, as promising as the reboot sounded, something went very wrong, and the show appears to be in jeopardy. Some are pointing the finger at none other than Paul Teutul himself.
2. American Chopper Started off as a Special and Gained Immediate Attention
“The original American Chopper premiered as a special in 2002 and ran for 10 years, airing 223 episodes before being cancelled in 2010 and then was rebooted as the spinoff American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior for another two years,” EW explains.
American Chopper quickly rose in popularity, at one point bringing in an audience of 3.4 million viewers per episode. The “drama” of the show also attracted viewers. There was always tension on the show, whether between the Teutuls and a demanding customer or between the Teutuls themselves. People were drawn into the conflicts of the show, which were usually resolved by the end of each episode.
Despite whatever disagreements there may have been between the Teutuls and each other or a difficult customer, the end result was always the same. A beautiful work product. A one-of-a-kind, custom build chopper proudly displaying the OCC emblem in glittering stainless steel. As with any reality TV show, at the end of each episode, they would show a teaser for next week’s show, and viewers continued to be drawn in to the Teutul’s rough, gruff, fascinating shop.
3. Paul Teutul Has Filed For Bankruptcy, Indicating That His Debts Greatly Outweigh his Assets
Page Six outlines Teutul’s finances as follows:
“’American Chopper’ star Paul Teutul filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in New York just days before the show was set to air.
Teutul filed paperwork claiming that he owes close to 50 creditors $1,070,893.44 and that he was only worth $1,801,729 on Feb. 28, according to court documents obtained by Page Six. He listed that he makes $15,070.93 per month, but spends $12,612.
He listed the family property at 95 Judson Road in Montgomery, NY, in his filing, claiming that he has a ‘fee interest’ worth $1.8 million in the home. He recently put the home on the market and now it is in foreclosure.
He also listed three cars, ‘four dogs’ and ‘one old desktop’ as part of his assets.
Teutul claimed that there is a $32,000 judgment against him and that he owes $151,230.98 to the Town of Crawford, NY, for taxes as well. He also needs to pay $21,300 to different credit card companies.
He has medical bills totaling over $2,000, but it is unclear what procedures he has had done.
Teutul, 68, listed his occupation as a ‘steel fabricator’ for the Orange County Choppers with a salary of $13,398.67 per month. He did not list any television work.”
A representative for Teutul told Page Six that Teutul’s filing for bankruptcy was a “proactive and not reactive” step, and that Teutul is currently “restructuring.”
4. Teutul Has Been Accused of Sabotaging The Reboot
Thomas Derbyshire is a former business partner of Teutul who heavily invested in the Orange County Chopper reboot. Derbyshire claims that Teutul used the investment money for his personal expenses, including taking a fishing trip which interfered with the show’s filming schedule.
Now, Derbyshire is suing for fraud, and is demanding to know where exactly his money went.
Page Six obtained court filings that outline Derbyshire’s claims against Teutul.
“Derbyshire said that he agreed to work with Teutul on the show ‘Orange County Choppers: American Made’ for A&E in 2015, but their business agreement quickly went south after Teutul tried to change their 51/49 percent ownership deal (benefiting Derbyshire) to a 50/50 deal. Derbyshire had agreed to fund the project up to $3 million at that time.
He claimed that Teutul held up production by taking a weeklong ‘fishing trip to his cabin in upstate New York’ and refusing to film with ‘Sons of Anarchy’ star and president of the Southern California chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, Rusty Coones. Scenes with Coones were part of his contract with A&E, according to the lawsuit.
Derbyshire also alleged that Teutul made side deals without consulting him, including ‘a contract with a dog food manufacturer to show their product on the program in exchange for giving [his] girlfriend a container full of dog food for her dog rescue project’ and ‘a free car lift for [Orange County Choppers] in exchange for filming the car lift on the show [and] promoting the brand, but the car lift was kept for OCC’s uses.’ He also claimed that Teutul used the company’s money to pay his son Michael’s salary, even though that was not part of their budget.”
Counsel for Teutul has largely and wholly denied Derbyshire’s allegations, describing Derbyshire’s interpretation of the allegations as meritless.
5. Teutul Is In Danger of Losing His Home
Teutul is reportedly dangerously close to losing his California mansion to foreclosure.
The Blast reports that the mortgage on the property is far from current and the bank is quickly losing patience.
“The documents state that Teutul originally took out a $1.5 million loan for the property in 2005, and had been required to make monthly payments of $8,125.
These days, Teutul is obsessed with a different type of horsepower — mainly cows, donkeys, horses, pot bellied pigs and alpacas — we’re told all the animals he cares for qualify for a special type of tax relief which caused the delay in payments and sparked the foreclosure process.
A rep for the Orange County Choppers co-founder tells The Blast the foreclosure filing, which was not executed, was an action taken to give options for an ongoing tax assessment request. Mr. Teutul cares for numerous animals on his property and under the laws of NY State is eligible for an agricultural assessment to provide property tax relief to the property owner.”
Teutul attempted to sell the mansion before losing it to foreclosure, even slashing the asking price by a drastic $400,000. Unfortunately for him, there were no seriously interested buyers, and foreclosure is looming. The current asking price is reportedly $2,499,000.
If Teutul is indeed in such financial dire straits, it stands to wonder why he would resist complying with the conditions of the reboot. Of course, only Teutul knows what exactly his contract entails, and perhaps there were some demands made that he simply did not agree with. However, this is just speculation, and only Teutul and his attorneys know exactly what is going on. In the meantime, if you were waiting for the reboot to premiere on Discovery, you might have to wait a little longer.