EXCLUSIVE: Eric Schotz, president and CEO of embattled LMNO Productions, has formed a new company, Anvil 1893 Entertainment. The company already is said to have a project set at History, a historical documentary. LMNO, which is involved in a very public falling out with Discovery Communications, will remain in business.
A source close to Schotz says that with Anvil, the nine-time Emmy winner is looking to expand into areas of programming beyond the reality TV fare that LMNO is known for, both in terms of genre and types of content. Anvil will produce a range of content – scripted and unscripted – for television, film (including feature documentaries) and digital platforms.
Articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State’s office show that Anvil was set up on August 1 – the same day Discovery Communications filed a countersuit against LMNO, accusing the reality TV show producer of keeping two separate sets of books to conceal its allegedly deceptive business practices.
LMNO had been one of Discovery’s leading suppliers since 1999, producing more than two dozen series and numerous specials for its various cable networks, including TLC and Investigation Discovery. But in June, Discovery took control of six shows LMNO had been producing following an audit of the company’s books. That same day, LMNO laid off more than 20 of its staffers, telling them that the company hoped it would only be a “temporary” hiatus.
Five days later, on June 22, LMNO filed a $7 million breach of contract suit against Discovery, accusing the giant media company of conspiring with LMNO’s former accountant, who it accused of being a “criminal extortionist,” to seize control of the six shows, which include Unusual Suspects and 7 Little Johnstons.
On August 1, Discovery filed its countersuit, accusing LMNO of having “manipulated books and records purposely to reflect false and/or doctored information, while simultaneously maintaining separate books and records that documented the actual costs of production.”
Last week, LMNO asked a federal judge to dismiss Discovery’s countersuit, accusing Discovery of engaging in an “elaborate shell game” to make it look like LMNO had engaged in deceptive business practices.
“Schotz understands some buyers may find the pending litigation between LMNO, and Discovery distracting, with these things taking time to resolve,” a source close to the CEO said. “While LMNO is up and running with a core team, his priority is for buyers, producers and others to be able to focus completely on the creation and delivery of quality, cost-effective programming. He feels the launch of a new brand in Anvil 1893 is the best way to do that.”
Anvil currently has its offices at LMNO’s headquarters in Encino, but a source said that Anvil is looking for office space of its own.
Schotz, a longtime collector of anvils, derived the name of his new company from The Blacksmith Scene. Released in 1893, it’s said to be the first commercially produced and exhibited film with staged actors. LMNO is an acronym for Leave My Name Off.
Through LMNO, which was launched in 1989, Schotz has produced such series as I Get That a Lot for and Kids Say the Darndest Things for CBS, Boot Camp for Fox, Behind Closed Doors for ABC, syndicated daily talk show Dr. Keith Ablow and a slew of series for the Discovery networks, including The Little Couple for TLC as well as Unusual Suspects and Murder Book for Investigation Discovery
At History, Schotz recently produced the two-part miniseries DB Cooper: Case Closed?