Michael C. Gilliland and his wife, Elizabeth C. Cook, co-founders and former former board members of leading US natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets, have filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that it has withheld payment on a demand promissory note.

Gilliland and Cook, who founded Wild Oats in 1987, filed the suit in Boulder County Court on 22 January. They say that Wild Oats has failed to pay them back US$2m they loaned to the company in January last year.

Wild Oats maintains that payment on the note has been withheld because it has been attempting to resolve an on-going dispute with Gilliland and Cook regarding the amount of certain accounts receivables owed by them to the company. Wild Oats believes the amount of the accounts receivable due from Gilliland and Cook should be resolved prior to the payment of the note, and offset against the amount paid under the note.

Cook served as Executive VP of Wild Oats until May 2001, while Gilliland stepped down from his position as CEO early in 2001. Both remained on the company’s board of directors until December 2001, when they resigned to diversify their stock portfolio.