Tycoon friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis in row over Hard Rock Cafe

Native American Seminole Tribe claim 'unauthorised' restaurant in Cancun, owned by Robert Earl, has been closed by local authorities

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The Independent Online

He's famed for rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest celebrities in the movie world. British tycoon Robert Earl was such good pals with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis that he persuaded them to become investors in the 1990s restaurant phenomenon Planet Hollywood.

That business has been in and out of well-documented tough times and bankruptcies over the years, but now it appears Mr Earl is in hot water over that other heavily-themed restaurant businesses which he once ran, Hard Rock Café.

The ever-ebullient friend of the Top Shop tycoon Sir Philip Green, is in the middle of a Die Hard legal row with the native American Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminoles, who owned lucrative gambling rights useful for Hard Rock-branded casinos, bought the global chain from Britain's Rank Group in 2007, renaming it Hard Rock International. It has since thrived, having expanded to new cities including Glasgow, with Shenzhen and Seoul now on the menu to open soon, adding to its current total of 189 sites around the world - an unimaginable number to the two long-haired Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, who opened the first Hard Rock on the site of a Rolls-Royce garage in central London in 1971.

But the tribe soon got into rows with Mr Earl over a number of Hard Rock Café restaurants in Mexico which the tycoon owns separately. The Seminoles claim to have gone through years of disputes with him, claiming his Hard Rocks were not up to scratch (“non-compliance with franchise standards” in the legal jargon) and had failed to make their full franchise payments.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Sylvester Stallone, at the grand opening of Planet Hollywood in Beverly Hills in 1995 (Getty Images)

Today, Hard Rock International issued a jubilant statement that the “unauthorised” Hard Rock in Cancun had been closed by local authorities. It stressed that it was currently seeking enforcement of numerous arbitrations in Mexico, including a final adjudication by Mexican arbitrators under the oversight of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.

A spokesman for Mr Earl dismissed the statement as “misleading”. He confirmed the restaurant in Cancun had been closed, but for only one night and because of a “completely unrelated matter” to the row with Hard Rock International. It was now back up and running again, he added, not commenting on the legal spat.

Hard Rock International said Mr Earl bought a controlling interest in the restaurants in 2001 when he bought into Grupo ECE Mexico and its subsidiary Operadora DB Mexico, which operates cafes in Cozumel, Cancun, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas.

With such dogged rivals, expect a rock show with multiple legal encores.