UPDATE, 5:50 PM, EXCLUSIVE: Now the Empire strikes back.
“CAA denies Worldview’s spurious allegations and will defend itself vigorously in court,” lawyer Jerry Bernstein told Deadline this evening in response to a scorching lawsuit filed earlier Thursday full of allegations of dirty financial deeds by the agency.
Essentially a husk of a company since a series of calamities in 2014 and a slew of legal actions , Worldview are claiming that one of the causes of their ills was the $55 million they were fraudulently induced to invest in some 20 films under CAA’s tutorage. Flicks that no one else wanted anything to put money in and were just moving forward to line CAA and its clients’ pockets says the once Christopher Woodrow run company.
“Worldview has been embroiled in litigation in New York filed against it by its own investors, accusing its management of breach of duty and improper conduct with regard to the very investments about which Worldview now seeks to cast blame on CAA,” added the Blank Rome LLP attorney and long time outside counsel for the uber-agency of the self described decimated financiers.
This looks to be one for the long haul.
PREVIOUSLY, 1:10 PM: The long litigation-fueled expiration of the once-soaring Worldview Entertainment pulled CAA into court today with a multimillion-dollar fraud suit and declarations of “corruption at the highest level of one of the most respected talent agencies in the world.”
“Plaintiffs’ reliance on CAA’s promises was misplaced, and their decision to partner with CAA in connection with the financing of numerous independent films was a disastrous mistake,” the filing (read it here) Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges of the first-look agreement the parties had from 2010-2015. Seeking a jury trial for some return on the more than $55 million that the Birdman financier invested in box office bombs like Devil’s Knot and the Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy-starring Child 44, the now virtually nonexistent Worldview claims it was the victim of an elaborate card trick of sorts to bilk them out of big bucks and saddle them with turkeys.
“Plaintiffs have recently obtained overwhelming proof that, rather than advancing Plaintiffs’ interests and advocating on their behalf, CAA systematically engaged in predatory practices toward Plaintiffs that were intended to deprive them and their investors of tens of millions of dollars in order to benefit CAA and its more favored partners and clients,” the complaint asserts, pulling in a stage-left cameo by the “now-discredited Harvey Weinstein,” accusations of underhanded strategies by uber-agency execs Richard Lovett and Roeg Sutherland and name checks Vince Vaughn and the pic Term Life.
While long an advocate of packaging deals for its clients in an industry where that is now the norm, CAA told Deadline this afternoon it had not seen the complaint and declined comment.
For those whose memories are a little cloudy, Worldview formed in 2007 and took several turns for the worst beginnnig in mid-2014 when, on the heels of a five-year pact with the Weinstein Company, CEO Christopher Woodrow was shown the door amid allegations of personal misconduct.
As well as listing specific sums invested in films like 2013’s Blood Ties ($3.5 million) and the Atom Egoyen-helmed Devil’s Knot ($4.5 million), Worldview’s attorneys said in the filing they have evidence of “CAA’s predatory business activities and misconduct toward Plaintiffs, which they intend to present in the course of these proceedings.” However, despite the nod to a deeper understanding of what may have really gone down, Worldview says it does not have more to offer at this time because “CAA has taken steps to prevent or, at least, to delay Plaintiffs’ ability to disclose such evidence in this litigation.”
“Once Plaintiffs remove CAA’s frivolous and unfounded road blocks to public disclosure of the documentary proof, they intend to amend their pleading to include additional details concerning CAA’s fraud, which are reflected in these currently non-public materials,” the five-claim complaint adds.
Where these “additional details” came from is left unsaid, but with legal battles ongoing in one form or another with ex-CEO Woodrow and investor Sarah Johnson, the process of discovery somewhere has likely yielded some interesting reading. Whether the reading will emerge from whatever protective order might exist is unclear.
Worldview and its various entities are represented by Paul Salvaty and Michelle Roberts Gonzales of Los Angelese firm Hogan Lovells US LLP.