Multi-million dollar verdicts reached in Assemi, Resnick suits

The court case has given the public a rare look into Resnick and Assemi’s farming empires

(Kenny Goodman)
Gregory Weaver
Published January 8, 2024  • 
10:30 am

FRESNO – A Fresno County jury reached a verdict in a lawsuit between two of California’s wealthiest growers.

Four years ago, Farid Assemi, a San Joaquin Valley farmer, developer, and healthcare scion, filed a $30 million lawsuit against Stewart Resnick, America’s wealthiest farmer.

Lawyers with Assemi could not be immediately reached for comment.

Assemi’s lawsuit landed just days after the family held up their 2019 pistachio crops over Resnick’s alleged failures to assure the Assemi family that they would get the full value of their 2019 crop. Assemi later filed a second claim in court, arguing Resnick’s Wonderful Pistachio cooperative deliberately undervalued the family’s nuts.

Resnick filed a $170 million countersuit, saying the family owed him 10 years worth of pistachios. Resnick alleged a handshake deal was made with Farid Assemi in April 2015, which gave Assemi some of the world’s first access to Resnick’s pistachio supertrees. 

The jury, according to court documents, found that both Assemi’s $30 million suit and Resnick’s $170 million suit were unfounded.

However, the jury agreed that Assemi’s secondary claim – that Resnick’s companies sabotaged the value of the Assemi Family’s pistachios – was warranted. The jury awarded Assemi a $38.7 million verdict in total. 

Resnick was awarded an $11.3 million verdict for the family’s hold-up of their 2019 nut crop.

The jury verdict brings an initial decision over a years-long saga. The court case has given a rare look into Resnick and Assemi’s farming empires – a story filled with friends and enemies, monopolies and rivals, genetically engineered nut trees and plans for the world’s biggest pistachio processing plant.

Farid Assemi was one of Resnick’s first partners in the nut industry, starting in 2004. The two became close friends, with Resnick lending Assemi more than $100 million in the 2010s. In an alleged handshake deal in 2015, Resnick gave the Assemi family near-exclusive access to the world’s most productive pistachio trees.

But their relationship began to fall apart starting in 2017 when Resnick and Assemi failed to establish a new business agreement into the 2020s for their pistachio crops. 

Farid planted the trees Resnick gave him on land not in Resnick’s Wonderful co-op and used the trees as leverage for a bigger loan request from Resnick. Resnick didn’t want to give Assemi a bigger loan, and the negotiations fell apart.

Soon after, in 2018, Assemi threatened to challenge Resnick’s monopoly in the pistachio industry by building a rival pistachio processing plant in West Fresno County. The rival plant, Kevin Assemi, Farid’s son, could have netted the family millions of dollars annually.

Fearing retaliation from their business plan, the Assemi family withheld their 2019 pistachio crop and sued Resnick. Resnick filed a countersuit, claiming he had been double-crossed by Farid and his son.

Fresh on the verdict, a spokesman for Resnick’s Wonderful called the jury’s decision “flawed and not supported by the evidence presented.”

“Wonderful acted in good faith at all times, as has been its practice throughout its decades in business, and has always met its obligations with its growers,” said Seth Oster, chief corporate affairs officer for the Wonderful Company.

“We intend to appeal.”

Gregory Weaver
Fresnoland.org