After years of court battles of his own, David Bergstein is now turning the legal spotlight onto The Hollywood Reporter – for $150 million. Earlier this week the film financier filed a defamation suit against the trade and parent company Prometheus Global Media. “Defendants’ reporting included material misstatements which were not matters of opinion, inference, shading or context, but were simply untrue,” says the February 19 filing in New York state court (read it here). Seeking “not less than” $100 million in damages and $50 million more in other compensation, the detailed complaint alleges that the trade deliberately allowed biased and false reporting against the film financier by one reporter in particular – Alex Ben Block.
Also claiming business interference and conspiracy, the very litigious producer is alleging that Block, who wrote the vast majority of the trade publication’s stories about Bergstein’s bankruptcy and other proceeds, was in the pocket of Aramid Entertainment’s David Molner, a former business associate of the film financier’s and his primary legal adversary. “Plaintiff was advised that Block was paid and compensated by Molner, and Block and defendants were given special access in return for the favorable bias which defendants’ articles set forth. Block and defendants continued to play a key role in furthering Molner’s improper efforts,” the 24-page complaint claims. “Defendants supported, facilitated and encouraged Block’s false and defamatory statements and ‘reporting’, and permitted themselves to be used as promoters of Molner’s outrageous and improper conduct, while knowing of Block’s clear bias, and of the erroneous reporting set forth in defendants numerous publications,” it adds.
Noting how THR admitted last year to the theft of source code from Deadline’s parent company Penske Media after a long legal action between the two parties, Bergstein’s suit paints a damning picture of the Prometheus publication and its writer. Among various “Without the negative, interfering and defamatory publicity provided by defendants, and without defendants’ intentional efforts and support for Molner’s bad faith efforts, the campaign against plaintiff and his businesses would not have gained any traction, nor proceeded to the extent that they did,”Among various examples in the complaint, including the leak late last year to Block and THR of an audio tape that purported to have Bergstein making threats and personal allegations about a judge in one of his bankruptcy cases, there is a claim that the THR writer has admitted to “third parties” that he felt Bergstein had “slandered him” in the past and was contemplating a lawsuit of his own. “Defendants, by continuing to permit Block to report on plaintiff and on events relevant to him, and by continuing to publish reports replete with error and innuendo, even after being informed of Block’s bias, departures from fact and defamation, have acted in a wanton fashion, with reckless disregard for the truth,” says the filing by attorney Robert Wolf of NYC-based firm Moses & Singer.