UPDATED, 12:21 PM: Londonderry CEO Patrick Millsaps just issued a strongly worded statement about former chairman/co-founder Sheila Wenzel-Ganny’s exit and her subsequent allegations against him, saying:
“Wenzel was terminated for cause on Monday, for reasons, including, but not limited to:
1. Terminating our African-American female assistant without reason or authority on Friday (we rehired her).
2. Changing the locks on the office on Friday without notice or authority.
3. Delivering only 1.8% of the revenue she assured our investors she could generate having had eight months to do so. This is the first I have heard about “abusive behavior.” In that I live and work in Georgia, 90% of my time, I have no idea what Sheila is talking about — unless of course that is what she considers being fired. I have not had any direct contact with Sheila in 2 or 3 months. I also don’t take meetings with a member of the opposite sex unless it is in public or in a group.
As the father of three daughters, I take the word “abuse” very seriously and don’t think it should be applied to a disagreement. It takes away from the thousands of women who suffer real abuse in a real way.”
EXCLUSIVE: Sheila Wenzel-Ganny, who joined Londonderry Entertainment in February of this year as the finance/management company’s co-founder and chairman, has abruptly exited the company. The parting has gotten nasty with threats of lawsuits for allegedly failing to perform, breach of fiduciary duty and inappropriate behavior levied by Londonderry against Wenzel-Ganny. On the flipside, Wenzel-Ganny told Deadline this morning that she is headed to court to seek a restraining order against Londonderry CEO Patrick Millsaps.
Wenzel-Ganny was locked out of the office Monday and “banned” from Londonderry’s Wilshire Boulevard home. However, Wenzel-Ganny told Deadline that she is going to court to seek a restraining order against Millsaps over her concerns rising out of what she alleges as “abusive behavior.” She would not comment further for this story. Millsaps would not comment.
The ugliness between the male CEO and female chairman at Londonderry is ironic. Londonderry is majority financed by successful businesswomen outside of Hollywood who want to see changes to benefit other women in the film business.
Londonderry is run by Millsaps, who catapulted the controversial (and conservative) actress Stacey Dash‘s career and opened a company called HBS Management before starting over in December 2015 with Londonderry. He is a lawyer and ran Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign in 2012. Another executive is a friend of Millsaps’ who was brought in to help devise a new business model. That friend, who also was in his wedding, is Don Grimsley, a former Suntrust Bank COO/CFO who is also a franchisee owner of Dairy Queen restaurants in Georgia. Holly Pollock, who began as Millsaps’ paralegal 13 years ago, rounds out the Londonderry team.
Rose McGowan left Londonderry around the end of February after the company and she disagreed about doing a specific project. It’s understood that Millsaps was upset that McGowan wouldn’t do a movie that he wanted her to do. McGowan could not be reached yet to comment for this article.
Manager Wenzel-Ganny came from Innovative Artists to Londonderry to help start the management side of the business. She actually began working in August before the management/finance company launched in December.
Then over the Christmas holiday, Londonderry hired manager Michael DeWitt (who was said to be a friend of Wenzel-Ganny). But he also no longer works there after being let go this year. The manner in which he was dismissed also has been a bone of contention.
It’s not clear what will happen with any projects that Wenzel-Ganny helped to develop or how the current clients may be divvied up between Wenzel-Ganny and Londonderry.
Londonderry is financed through private investors — about 60% of whom are said to be successful businesswomen throughout the country who’ve never invested in Hollywood before but also would like to see a sea change. The company’s namesake is Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world in 1895. The press, at the time, called her quest “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.”
The company was set up using a multi-phase business plan. The first phase was to raise equity through investors (they said earlier this year that they had raised $1M in five weeks). The second was creating the management and production side — led by Wenzel-Ganny. The third phase is to produce revenue by optioning content, match talent with that content and then pull in investors — either the ones they are in business with now or others outside the company — and pair them with the project.
They were to finance films in three areas: non-slasher thrillers and horror films or “elevated psychological film projects,” sci-fi films and faith and family films. All were going to be in the $1M to $5M range.
Londonderry then would make their money going forward on finder fees for bringing in the financing and commissions on talent. They are not looking for all-female content but wanted to get more women into the director’s chair. Such was the case with the aforementioned McGowan project, apparently.
Wenzel previously worked at Innovative Artists for 14 years. Their goal together was to provide business and financial guidance and structure for other production companies that want to also elevate women by taking their client base and helping them to develop production companies and businesses for themselves (and likely that they also will be able to profit from).
The client base at Londonderry is very small with about 20 clients (that has never included Dash, btw). The most notable was actress McGowan, who already had directed a short film. Some of their clients also have written, produced and/or directed. For instance, Allison Mack directed multiple episodes of Smallville, Elisa Donovan has produced, Andrea Osvart has produced and written, Gabrielle Christian has produced as written and JR Niles is a director, writer and producer.