Keiko Aoki, who controls the international franchise rights, is set to hire high-powered lawyer Seth Waxman, a former US Solicitor General and Supreme Court advocate, to press the next phase of her case, Keiko told The Post in an exclusive interview.
The stakes are high. Whoever wins the next round will control the assets Rocky left behind, including nearly two dozen franchise restaurants in Asia, Canada and Europe.
In May, Keiko was dealt a major blow when a Manhattan appeals court ruled that she would lose control of the family’s Benihana assets once the restaurateur’s model daughter Devon Aoki, 32, and DJ son Steve Aoki, 36, hit age 45.
Keiko, who sat down for an interview at her new restaurant, Koa, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, said she’s seeking to reverse the decision because that’s what her late husband would have wanted.
“Rocky was a great guy. He believed that a company should have one voice,” said Keiko, a former Miss Tokyo who wore a Chanel jacket to dinner. “I have a responsibility to keep the company together.”
Rocky “loved his kids,” but he wanted her to run the business, she said.
The family has been on the rocks for so long that New York magazine wrote a story in 2006, titled “Rocky’s Family Horror Show.” That year Rocky tried to boot four of his six kids from having any part in the company.
His death in 2008 started the latest legal battle.
In 2010, Keiko won partial control of the assets, which included a large stake in Benihana Inc., which runs the US franchise and has since been sold. Two years later, she was granted complete control of the assets until her death. Then came the May decision, which said the assets would revert back to two of Rocky’s kids.
Money ALWAYS breaks up families!