Skip to main content

Rokit Leaves Trail of Millions in Deserted Deals, Lawsuits and Bankruptcies

In early 2019, the Oakland Raiders began courting an English-American company called Rokit as a founding partner for their soon-to-be Las Vegas home.

By then, Rokit, with its primary product lines in mobile phones and alcohol, had a short but notable track record in the world of sports. Within six months, it had secured multimillion-dollar deals with the Los Angeles Chargers and Formula One’s Williams Racing, and was the inaugural jersey patch sponsor for the Houston Rockets, a high-profile partnership announced the previous fall.

Activity like that tends to raise antennas in front offices across the sports industry, and representatives for the Raiders and Legends, the team’s sales agent, made multiple trips to the company’s oceanfront office in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Other franchises also took notice, even though Rokit’s yearly revenue did not cover the big-ticket deals it had already made.

The Raiders’ due diligence, two people familiar with the process told Sportico, focused on the financial heft of the prospective sponsor’s biggest backer, Patrón Spirits Co.’s billionaire co-founder John Paul DeJoria, who’d just sold his 70% stake in the tequila giant to Bacardi in a $5.1 billion deal. At the same time, DeJoria, who also co-founded and runs the Paul Mitchell haircare juggernaut, was working with his longtime British business partner, Jonathan Kendrick, to boost their mercurial, 20-year-old ROK brand into Rokit.

DeJoria, though not an officer nor employee, was an active part of the Rokit discussions with the Raiders, the sources said. They added that his involvement, in addition to multiple conversations with counterparts at the Rockets, Chargers and Williams Racing, made the Raiders comfortable signing a long-term agreement with a relatively unknown entity.

The talks led to a 10-year deal worth more than $60 million, a sizable partnership even by NFL standards, which made Rokit the Raiders’ official phone and included naming rights to a 13,000-square-foot club inside Allegiant Stadium. In March 2020, Raiders players and cheerleaders participated in a photo shoot in Las Vegas to announce the deal. 

But it soon fell apart. Rokit owed the team $5.9 million for the first year of the agreement, but it never paid. When Allegiant Stadium opened later that year, the Rokit Field Club was nowhere to be found.

Representatives for the Raiders and Legends declined to comment on the deal or its aftermath. Kendrick, who serves as Rokit’s CEO and chairman, and the company’s public relations department did not respond to several requests for comment solicited last week. In an email, Alex Merino, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing Kendrick and Rokit, wrote that some of Sportico’s questions “are based on rumors and false information,” but declined to comment or elaborate further. DeJoria did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent to his assistant and a Paul Mitchell spokesperson.

Sports sponsorship has been just a small part of Rokit’s sprawling ambitions, which its co-founders have directed at everything from e-bikes, apparel and water purification to nationwide internet infrastructure, discount legal services and telemedicine. Despite its varied interests, and a complex web of private limited companies to pursue them, financial reports and interviews with former Rokit insiders chronicle a company that has never proven financially sustainable, produced very few actual products, and failed to deliver on many of its business commitments. Rokit has shown itself to be quite adept at one thing: attracting bold-faced names and high-profile companies, from sports to Hollywood, into its orbit, only to leave many of its partners feeling shortchanged.

Over the past few years, Rokit has been accused of bailing on sports promotional commitments totaling well more than $100 million, according to court filings and bankruptcy documents reviewed by Sportico. A number of these deals have since devolved into litigation, including a particularly contentious legal battle between the company and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. Meanwhile, six subsidiaries inside what Rokit refers to as its “Group of Companies” have filed for bankruptcy in the last 18 months, with teams of trustees and lawyers now trying to sort how connected those entities are and who should pay for contracts going unfulfilled.

Despite those setbacks, a number of sports entities are still doing business with Rokit, particularly those in smaller racing circuits and more niche sports such as equestrian, beach handball and snooker. Rokit Venturi Racing finished second in this season’s Formula E team standings, and DeJoria’s daughter Alexis is currently racing in NHRA events sponsored by Rokit and one of its liquor labels. Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan is also a Rokit endorser, having agreed to respell his nickname, “Rocket,” as part of the sponsorship. It’s unclear why a few of these deals appear active amid all the defaults and bankruptcy filings. Representatives for all three didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

‘Return of Kendrick’ 

While DeJoria’s wealth has, in practice or prospect, enabled the operation, the man in charge is Kendrick—ROK stands for “Return of Kendrick.”

In numerous public forums, Kendrick has described Rokit as embodying a kind of “compassionate capitalism,” while the company’s websites and social media accounts continue to proclaim a motto of self-sacrifice: “Rokit does things differently, taking our products, partnerships & responsibilities very seriously but never ourselves.”

However, Kendrick’s rhetoric has been repeatedly cast into doubt by the company’s modus operandi and his deportment as chief executive.

In an email Kendrick sent his staff in late 2018—a copy of which was obtained by Sportico and authenticated by multiple sources—the CEO suggested that he would start making Rokit employees wear badges in the office to denote how useful he perceived them. Those who were the most disappointing would be tagged with the classic four letter f-word, Kendrick wrote, explaining it stood for “Futile Useless C***sucker Tosser.”

The company, which sources say has never employed more than 60 full-time workers, has seen numerous departures in recent years.

“The crazy thing is it was almost like the rug got pulled out from under our feet every time we made progress,” said one former staffer who worked on Rokit's wireless portfolio. “It just so frequently felt like it was on purpose not to make a profit.”

In the sextet of bankruptcy petitions, each of which bear Kendrick’s signature, most of the Rokit satellite entities report assets in the low five figures—if anything at all—and liabilities well into seven and eight figures. A substantial part of the latter includes multimillion-dollar unsecured claims by the Raiders ($1.97 million), Rockets ($11.23 million), Williams Racing (£14.5 million, converted as $18.59 million) and Manchester United (£7 million, converted as $8.97 million). Smaller creditors include the Tennis Channel ($625,000) and Chargers All-Pro safety Derwin James ($30,000).

CEO Jonathan Kendrick (second from right) has often used high-minded rhetoric about Rokit's mission. (Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty)

The sports defaults followed a similar saga in the music industry involving Rok Mobile Inc., a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service the company unveiled in 2014, which spawned several breach-of-contract lawsuits. In 2018, Warner Music, Sony and Orchard Enterprises filed separate complaints in New York Superior Court seeking to recover millions of dollars in unpaid bills from their licensing agreements with Rok Mobile. The court issued judgments for the companies, and even granted them permission to serve DeJoria with discovery requests in Texas, where he maintains one of his residences. Those awards, however, have now also become ensnared in a federal bankruptcy action.

Rok’s Metamorphosis

A predecessor to Rokit, Rok Entertainment Group, went public in 2007 in a $1.1 billion reverse merger, a process that typically offers very little scrutiny. Its stock traded under the ticker ROKE on the pink sheets. Kendrick served as chairman of the board and CEO for the company, which developed its mobile streaming business ideas, while DeJoria and his family held the plurality of the company’s shares through two trusts, according to SEC filings. However, in 2012, Rok Entertainment Group had the registration of its stock pulled by the Securities and Exchange Commission after it repeatedly failed to file periodic reports over the course of four years. The company’s last SEC disclosure came in June 2008, when it reported a net loss of over $20 million for the previous three months.

In 2016, Kendrick and DeJoria pivoted from selling streaming services on other mobile providers to trying to manufacture their own device. Under the banner of Rok Mobile International, they announced an alliance with Human Health Organization (H20), a tech group funded by filmmaker James Cameron and run by his brother, John. H20 had, at the time, been working on a two-in-one product combining a cell phone and vape pen.

The joint Rok/H20 venture, which was set to be overseen by John Cameron and Kendrick, promised to utilize NASA technology in creating the first low-radiation phone, which would be equipped with Rok Mobile’s hodgepodge suite of streaming music, burial insurance and telemedicine services.

“The moment I met with the ROK founders, they got it,” John Cameron said in the press release announcing the joint venture. DeJoria himself publicly touted the partnership at the time while promoting Good Fortune, a documentary about his life.

However, according to three sources, Kendrick tussled with John Cameron over control of the phone project, eventually leading to Cameron’s ouster. The sources said that this, in turn, upset James Cameron and eventually resulted in the dissolution of the merger by 2018. After a brief attempt to revive business on its own, H20 folded. John Cameron died in 2020, and James Cameron did not respond to a request for comment through his agency, CAA.

Newly emboldened by DeJoria’s Patrón liquidity event, Rokit's next pursuit was its most wildly ambitious project yet: a partnership involving an Indian state‐owned telecommunications company that would turn a vast swath of the world’s largest country into a WiFi hotspot. At an October 2018 press conference for the new entity, VEECON ROK, Kendrick donned literal rose-colored glasses as he explained that because his company was not “beholden to stockholders,” it was able to give back more to its consumers and collaborators. In fact, according to multiple sources, Rokit had only secured a preliminary memorandum of understanding from its Indian partners and had nowhere near the wherewithal to accomplish the announced $5 billion infrastructure project to outfit 27 cities on the subcontinent with WiFi. Despite several follow-up meetings, sources say, none of the work ever went ahead.

Sports ‘Bat Signal’

Rokit's pricey sports deals coincided with this shift to phones and growing optimism within the company amid the India talks. First came the two-year, $3.22 million with the Chargers, a relatively inexpensive price to secure field naming rights to an NFL team, followed by a four-year agreement with the Rockets worth at least $40 million.

DeJoria and Fertitta, the Rockets owner, had already known each other, according to multiple people familiar with the relationship, but the deal was led by Excel Sports Management, the NBA team’s sales agency. A handful of other companies were in talks for the team’s patch, one of the people said, but Rokit offered the most money, spoke often about overseas business and presented fun name synergy, something no one else could. The deal was announced just two days before the start of the 2018-19 regular season. (A representative for Excel declined to comment.)

The Rockets deal turned heads across sports. Jersey patches were still relatively new in the NBA, and each team’s first partnership generally drew a lot of media attention. That was heightened by the on-the-nose sponsor name and the team’s success—Rockets star James Harden was the reigning league MVP, and the team had fallen one victory short of the previous season’s NBA Finals.

One global sponsorship consultant, who was not part of a Rokit deal, nonetheless described it as a “bat signal” to franchises across the U.S. that this particular company was both willing to spend big money, and had already passed the vetting process for two of the world’s biggest teams. An executive who negotiated a Rokit deal later on said it would have been viewed as “potentially offensive” to more fully scrutinize the finances of a company that already had those deals in place.

Beyond the increased name recognition, the company pushed to leverage its relationship with Fertitta into a much wider opportunity for its liquor business. Fertitta owns restaurant and hospitality giant Landry’s, which has more than 600 properties in 36 states and more than 15 countries. (The Raiders deal also involved Rokit's liquor).

The Rockets’ agreement and subsequent sports deals gave the impression of a single company pushing hard into the space. But Rokit’s various legal battles and bankruptcy hearings show the group is composed of dozens of separate companies, all with varying degrees of connection. The names of these companies are frequently subject to change, making it difficult to decipher their financial and operational ties. In the bankruptcy proceedings, Rokit is stressing the independence of each in contending that the buck should stop with the specific debtors.

Then again, at certain times, the enterprise has found it advantageous to assert their interrelatedness. For example, in the summer of 2019, Rokit announced it was specifically changing the name of ROK Drinks to Rokit Drinks to “align [it] with the extensive sports sponsorship activities undertaken by its sister company Rokit Phones.”

Where Credit Is Due

In late July, Kendrick called in to the first meeting of the creditors in the bankruptcy proceedings of Imply Industry Inc., a Rokit subsidiary doing business as ROK Brands Inc., which had been the party to the Raiders deal.

According to its bankruptcy petition, ROK Brands Inc. claimed to have $13,900 of assets and over $3.8 million of liabilities, of which it attributed a nearly $2 million unsecured claim to the Raiders and another $500,000 debt to Astound Group, the marketing agency hired to promote the Rokit/Raiders partnership. (A representative for Astound declined to comment.)

In the initial 20-minute hearing, during which neither the Raiders nor any other creditors appeared, the Chapter 7 panel trustee Brian Ferguson expressed misgivings as to why the nearly assetless ROK Brands was the entity shouldering the full debt of the Raiders deal gone sideways.

In an audio recording of the meeting obtained by Sportico through a public records request, Ferguson questioned whether other Rokit businesses under Kendrick’s purview benefited from the Raiders’ promotion and, therefore, should shoulder whatever money is owed to the team.

Kendrick explained that ROK Brands was a Rokit subsidiary created with the narrow purpose of selling its mobile phone devices to Walmart. In responding to Ferguson’s questioning, Kendrick claimed Rokit’s deal to sponsor the Raiders was specifically “tailored” to meeting the reciprocal marketing commitments of its deal with Walmart, which was presumed to be worth “tens of millions of dollars.” However, this point neglected to address the other part of the Raiders deal, which he acknowledged, focused on Rokit’s alcohol. (Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.)

During the hearing, Kendrick explained that ROK Brands Inc. had purchased “a lot of inventory,” but sales of the phones were failing to meet projections even before the pandemic created a two-front “nightmare.”  

“There were no games being played, and we couldn’t get the phones made because of the [delays for] components,” he said. “We basically couldn’t commit to that deal, and I was trying to renegotiate it, but nobody could give me a date when the games would start again. So that was a bit of a fiasco.” (The NFL canceled its 2020 preseason, but played the regular season and playoffs as scheduled.)

In a follow-up meeting several weeks later, J.R. Baxter, a lawyer working for the Chapter 7 trustee, asked Daniel Lewis, a Rokit representative, whether he knew of any subsequent agreements with the Raiders that released the debtor from liability. Lewis said he did not.

“So as far as you are aware, the debtor still owes all the money to the Raiders [from] the contract?” Baxter reiterated.

“As far as I am aware, yes,” said Lewis. For now, the Raiders have not formally indicated whether they plan to pursue this debt, and Ferguson, the trustee, declined to comment for this story.

Touchdown Dances

While the ROK Brands bankruptcy was filed in the Western District of Arkansas, where the subsidiary listed its offices, Rokit’s five other pending bankruptcies are in the Central District of California, where the company’s U.S. operations are based.

Radical West (aka Rokit Wireless) filed for bankruptcy last July, claiming no assets and nearly $1 million of liabilities, with a $400,000 debt owed to the Chargers. This came after a breach of contract lawsuit the Chargers filed against Rokit Wireless and Kendrick, individually, in California state court. In August 2018, the team announced it had signed a deal for Rokit to be both its official wireless partner and the title sponsor of its field at what was then known as the StubHub Center. (A spokesperson for the Chargers declined to comment.)

Six months later, Narrow Management Inc. (aka Skyrokit) filed for Chapter 7 claiming a $625,000 unsecured debt to the Tennis Channel, after a separate lawsuit in California.

Able Events Inc., which did business under the name Rokit Marketing Inc., filed for bankruptcy in March, claiming over $70 million in liabilities and no assets. Its list of creditors included Williams Racing, the Houston Rockets and Chargers star Derwin James, who filmed a series of Rokit promotional videos where he teaches touchdown celebrations. The two-time Pro Bowl safety has zero career NFL touchdowns. (Representatives for Williams and James didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

In its petition, Rokit Marketing also listed a nearly $9 million (£7 million) unsecured debt to Manchester United. The European soccer club was in talks with a Rokit-owned beer brand called ABK on a large partnership that never materialized, according to someone familiar with the situation. A representative for Manchester United declined to comment. 

Concurrent to Rokit Marketing Inc.’s bankruptcy, another entity called ROK Marketing LLC filed for bankruptcy, listing $15.5 million in liabilities owed almost entirely to Williams Racing. David Neale, the attorney representing several of the Rokit entities, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The concert of Chapter 7 activity has come amid a series of adverse civil court and arbitration rulings against the company. Last October, a British arbitrator ruled against Rokit in awarding Williams Racing what now is around $30 million (£26.2 million, plus $1 million) including attorneys’ fees, and the F1 team subsequently asked for a federal court in California to confirm the award, in order to collect on it in the U.S.

Rokit Marketing and ROK Marketing’s bankruptcy filings came two weeks after a judge set the briefing schedule for the arbitral award action, which stayed the case until early last month. 

A Problem in Houston

The fallout from the Rokit-Houston Rockets deal has been especially contentious. In October 2018, Rokit Marketing Inc. entered into a four-year agreement, for just under $10 million a year, making Rokit the team’s first jersey patch sponsor. Rokit made good on its upfront payment for the first year, according to court filings, but then refused to pay the additional $500,000 that the contract stipulated for the team making the second round of the playoffs that year.

In March 2020, the Houston Rockets filed for arbitration, claiming that Rokit was, by then, behind on payments to the tune of $11.3 million. During the arbitration, Rokit had argued in part that the company had suffered financially because Houston Rockets’ then-GM Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protest movement against China. Rokit claimed that Morey had, by extension, harmed its own business relationships in China, where its mobile devices were being manufactured.

The arbitrator granted the Rockets their full award, while tacking on $443,000 in prejudgment interest and roughly $200,000 in attorney’s fees. The arbiter’s ruling was quickly reaffirmed by an order from a Texas state court judge.

As the Rockets were seeking to recover their eight-figure judgment this May, three Rokit subsidiaries—Rokit Drinks, Rok Imports and their holding company, Rok Stars Limited—filed a federal lawsuit against the Houston Rockets’ parent and sister companies, Fertitta Entertainment Inc. and Landry’s Inc. The suit effectively argued that Rokit was entitled to bail on its jersey patch payments because Landry’s hadn’t held up its end of the bargain on a separate liquor distribution agreement.

According to the complaint, in August 2018—the same month the Chargers partnership was announced—Kendrick met Fertitta at his Mastro’s steakhouse in Houston to hash out a beverage component to their budding relationship. Over lunch, the suit states, Fertitta personally conducted a blind taste test between Rokit’s Bogart Vodka and Tito’s, favoring the former.

Rokit executed the beverage deal with Landry’s shortly thereafter but alleges that the restaurant group dragged its feet on purchasing the quantities of liquor it had indicated it would. By the summer of 2020, Rokit says it was forced to lay off a sizable chunk of its workforce and destroy a “substantial portion” of the alcohol it had produced, and that the situation led to demise of its previously struck licensing deal with the Humphrey Bogart Estate. (An email sent to the Bogart estate wasn’t returned.) 

“This lawsuit is a frivolous—bordering on unethical—attempt by Rokit Drinks to enforce an agreement that never existed and litigate contentions previously raised in an arbitration (which plaintiffs’ affiliates lost) but voluntarily dismissed,” Landry’s and Fertitta Entertainment wrote in their motion to dismiss. The companies argued that Rokit’s explicit plan to induce an alcoholic beverage deal with Landry’s by sponsoring the Houston Rockets violates Texas’ alcoholic beverage laws.   

A federal judge agreed to dismiss the case but allowed Rokit to file an amended complaint later this month. Keith French, a Texas-based lawyer representing Rokit, said the companies intend to do so. Representatives from the Rockets and Landry’s did not respond to requests for comment.

‘I Am Very Angry’

At the Arkansas bankruptcy creditors meeting in July, Kendrick pooh-poohed the “friendly” ruling from the arbitrator in Texas, chalking it up to the Rockets home-court advantage, and laid into the organization’s ownership. “I am very angry with those guys,” Kendrick said, adding that in addition to the civil litigation he filed in the United States, he planned to also pursue “criminal fraud” charges against Fertitta and company through the British court system. Sportico could find no record of Kendrick pursuing this litigation in the UK; when asked about it, French said he had “no comment beyond the statements made by Mr. Kendrick.”

Pressed by Ferguson, the bankruptcy trustee, Kendrick estimated that his portfolio currently includes “about 60” companies worldwide.

“We’ve registered a lot of companies so we could protect the name, so nobody else could grab it,” Kendrick told Ferguson. “Some of those are connected and some are not.”

In its lawsuit against Rokit filed in August 2020, the Tennis Channel, which added a “Rokit Shot of the Day” highlight segment in its broadcasts, sought to establish the connection between the entity it had contracted with, Skyrokit Inc., and the larger corporate creature it believed it was actually promoting. In the discovery process, The Tennis Channel asked whether Skyrokit was a “member of ROKIT Group”; whether it used the “Rokit” logo; and whether Kendrick was the company’s CEO. The defendant issued denials for all three questions. The case was eventually settled late last year. Days later, Skyrokit filed for bankruptcy, listing its co-debtor as Rok Mobile Inc. and its biggest creditor as Rokit World Inc. (The Tennis Channel, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, declined to comment.)

In May 2019, Rokit announced a series of sponsorships with some of the world’s top tennis players, including Gael Monfils, Stan Wawrinka, Danielle Collins and Sam Querrey, all of whom began wearing the company’s logo during matches.

“Everything started off fine but it quickly became clear they didn’t really have a great plan on how to activate the sponsorships within sports,” John Tobias, Querrey’s agent, said in an email. “Within six months, payments were late or not made at all … We agreed to take 30% of what was still due just to move on.”

Earlier this year, A.J. Foyt Racing announced that the No. 11 car shared by Tatiana Calderón and JR Hildebrand would no longer participate in IndyCar races until its primary sponsor, Rokit, made up for missed payments. Neither driver has raced since. (Larry Foyt, president of A.J. Foyt Racing, declined to comment).

A few months before the car was sidelined, Rokit filed a lawsuit, which it lost, against a production company over footage used in a documentary about Calderón. The production company claimed in its response that the lawsuit was an attempt to front-run their own potential breach-of-contract claim.

The most recent publicly available financial statements filed by two of Rokit’s main holding companies—Rokit Launch Limited and Rok Stars Limited—portrayed an overall enterprise in arrears. In 2020, Rokit Launch Limited, which comprises several mobile phone product and service companies, reported losses of around $8 million. The company disclosed it had yet to pay back any of the $100 million in loans it received from its two co-founders, with the bulk of those, nearly $80 million, coming from DeJoria.

ROK Stars Limited, the liquor holding company, and its subsidiaries turned a profit of $960,000 (£868,000) in 2020, according to its audited financials, up from a loss of $2.69 million (£2.43 million) in 2019. The group had $24.2 million (£21.86 million) in debt, with the bulk of those liabilities also owing to a loan by DeJoria. “These conditions along with other matters … may cast significant doubt about the Group and parent Company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the company’s British auditor wrote in a report to its shareholders in September 2021.

ROK Stars was once traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the largest in Germany, which it said it left in 2012 following a rule change. The company was then traded on the Stuttgart Stock Exchange until June 2020, when it was delisted. The company said at the time that the listing termination was initiated by the exchange, and that it chose not to submit a new application, citing low trading volume and access to other sources of funding.

‘Red Flags’

While more recent financial reports are not yet available, one former Rokit drinks employee, who spoke to Sportico on the condition of anonymity, says that the liquor venture was a continual source of bemusement to those tasked with selling the product.

“The red flags primarily were the amount of sales we were doing and how [well] we were getting paid and wondering where the money was coming from,” said the former employee, who left the group earlier this year. “We were barely selling anything in the whole country. The numbers just don’t add up.”

From 2020 to 2021, Rokit’s U.S.-based entities received over $1.3 million in forgiven paycheck protection loans, according to Small Business Administration data compiled by ProPublica.

Though the Chapter 7 process offers protections such as staying litigation, Bruce Markell, a former U.S. bankruptcy judge and professor at Northwestern Law School, says that it also invites the risk of added scrutiny.

“If you are going to bury somebody, there are cheaper funerals than Chapter 7,” said Markell, noting that bankruptcy trustees are both empowered and motivated to hold company’s directors personally liable in instances where there have been fraudulent transfers of assets or undercapitalized subsidiaries. Trustees work on a commission system in which they earn a percentage of any additional monies they are able to claw back for creditors.

Billionaire John Paul DeJoria's money and prestige have kept Rokit going despite its numerous setbacks. How long will he continue to stand by it? (John Sciulli/Getty Images)

“If the companies don’t have assets, there are no downsides to letting the vultures pick over them,” Markell added. “If you file bankruptcy, you just appointed someone who is putting a microscope on you and has a financial incentive to do so.”

That said, the Rokit corporate veil so far remains unpierced. Will that soon change?

After numerous delays, the creditors meetings for several of the California bankruptcies are scheduled to take place in mid-October, followed a few weeks later by a continuation of the creditors meeting in the Arkansas bankruptcy. With its bankruptcy stay now lifted, Williams Racing is finally set to get a hearing for its Rokit arbitral award in late November.

Rokit's future may hinge entirely on DeJoria's willingness to remain involved with the money-losing venture. Why DeJoria has stayed with it this long is a question that's mystified a number of people who worked inside and in partnership with the company.

On July 12, a week before the Arkansas bankruptcy creditors’ meeting, Kendrick was awarded an honorary doctorate of business administration at the University of Bolton in Manchester, England.

Taking the podium, Kendrick regaled the assembled auditorium of students with the tale of his boom-and-bust business career that led to Rokit. It began, he said, when he “talked my way” into his first job at Goodyear as a 17-year-old orphan, and became a millionaire tire entrepreneur by 24. He would lose most of his gains four years later, Kendrick explained, the first of several times that happened. Now on his “third fortune,” Kendrick held himself out as a model of hard work and fearlessness in the face of failure.

He concluded the remarks with the mantra he says he speaks to himself when he rises each morning: “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not prepared to do.”

Scott Soshnick and Brendan Coffey contributed to this report.

(This article has been corrected to clarify that Rokit’s federal lawsuit against Fertitta Entertainment Inc. and Landry’s did not enumerate a $90 million claim for damages. Instead, that claim had been made in the course of the Houston Rockets arbitration case. Also, Rokit’s specific contention that Daryl Morey’s tweets in support of the Hong Kong protest movement had harmed its Chinese business interests were asserted in the arbitration case, not the federal lawsuit.)

More From Our Brands