Vinnie Johnson’s Piston Group wins court battle over minority designation

Vinnie Johnson's Piston Group wins court battle over minority designation

DETROIT – Former Detroit Bad Boys great Vinnie Johnson is spending a lot of time in court these days.

His Piston Group Auto Supply company ran into trouble with the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council and it denied Johnson’s companies their minority supplier designation.

Losing that designation could cost billions in lost business.

With this ruling, Judge David Groner, reinstated at least temporarily the Piston Group’s minority designation.

Johnson and his lawyers asked for that injunction and received it. Rest assured there is a lot of drama here and this case is far from finished.

Johnson converted his legendary clutch play into a far more lucrative, second career, four companies under the Piston group doing roughly $3 billion a year, one of the nation’s largest minority auto suppliers.

But the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council revoked Johnson’s minority status last February claiming no minority management and adding Johnson does not manage his company’s day-to-day operations.

Minority supplier council CEO Michelle Sourie Robinson says this is a simple case.

In a statement she said, “This is not about any one company or person. In an era where society is openly declaring its commitment to social, racial and economic diversity and inclusion, it is imperative that we all play by and not bend or break the rules established to ensure a fair shake for those who have been historically left out.”

Johnson’s attorney Cinnamon Ploska disagrees that’s what is at play here.

“It’s offensive to suggest a narrative he’s not managing these companies and he’s not behind his brand doing everything necessary to grow these companies,” said Ploska.

Instead she says Robinson had a personal problem with Johnson.

She claims Robinson wanted Johnson to fund her organization and got angry when he hired one of her staffers.

“In addition to not donating $300,000 to MMSDC and supporting a golf outing, Johnson did hire an employee of MMSDC and that obviously agitated her,” said Ploska.

Former MMSDC staffer Frank Ervin now runs the government relations department at Piston Group.


About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.