CBS says the man who unsuccessfully tried to enlist the support of Lucie Arnaz in what he claimed was a relaunch of Desilu Studios actually was attempting to use her famous name to “induce unwitting investors” in a shell company.
A new lawsuit filed by CBS Studios alleges that Charles Hensley — far from being a possible savior of the legendary Desilu Studios brand — is a convicted marketer of unapproved bird flu medication who tried to register the Trans World Airlines trademark two years ago.
Earlier this year, Hensley’s Desilu announced plans to reboot the classic sci-fi miniseries V as a feature film.
Attempts by Deadline to reach Hensley and Desilu were unsuccessful. A phone number previously connected to the studio is no longer in service.
According to the suit filed Tuesday in California federal court (read it here), “CBS is informed and believes that Hensley never intended to use the Desilu name for legitimate business purposes and, instead, intended to use that name in order to induce ‘investments’ into his shell companies.”
CBS is suing Hensley and his “Desilu Studios Inc.” for, among other things, trademark infringement and cybersquatting.
Hensley actually started the legal sparring earlier this year when he sued CBS, claiming that he had obtained the Desilu trademark with no opposition “from CBS or anyone else.”
CBS struck back Tuesday, accusing Hensley of forming two companies last year that he called Desilu Studios Inc. and Desilu Corporation and that he then “caused a false ‘valuation’ letter to be issued by a non-existent Los Angeles business called the ‘Beverly Wilshire Group.’ “
“Hensley’s valuation letter stated that his newly-formed company, DSI, was worth $11.2 billion,” CBS says.
As presented in the CBS suit, Hensley approached Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, to ask her blessing in the relaunch of the groundbreaking studio founded by her parents, which produced I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and many others. After contacting CBS, Arnaz rebuffed Hensley, at which point, in April 2018, Hensley filed suit against CBS “for tortious interference with contract and for declaratory relief and trademark infringement.” Hensley’s attorney in July filed a motion to withdraw the suit.
Hensley then, according to CBS, hired another attorney, who failed to appear at two scheduled hearings and, finally just last week, filed a dismissal of Hensley’s suit.
That legal wrangling followed a plan announced early in 2018 to consider a public offering after Desilu acquired a controlling stake in Vonetize, an Israel-based tech company known for providing streaming technology for major studios.
In February, Desilu announced plans for the V movie. At the time, Desilu EVP Steven Posen said, “V is a multibillion-dollar film franchise and merchandising juggernaut. We couldn’t be more excited and honored to bring this film to the millions of devoted fans worldwide.”
But CBS now says Hensley not only didn’t intend to use the Desilu name for legitimate business purposes but undertook the legal maneuvering against CBS as a delaying tactic to buy time to recruit potential investors.
“Hensley induced numerous individuals to enter into contracts with him,” CBS’ suit says, “and to pay him tens of thousands of dollars for worthless [Desilu Studios Inc.] stock.” Websites for the new Desilu Studios misled the public and investors “into believing that DSI is the same company that produced I Love Lucy and Star Trek in the past.”
So now CBS wants a jury trial and for Hensley to give up any Desilu-like domain names, hand over whatever profits he made through the name and pay damages.
At least one of those domain names for Desilu Studios remained active Wednesday. It describes the company as “a subsidiary of Desilu Corporation” engaged “in motion picture and television acquisition/development, content streaming and merchandising.”
“Doing everything better and differently from the typical Hollywood paradigm reflects the maverick style of Chairman and CEO Charles B. Hensley,” the site says. “In fact, Hensley is quick to say that Desilu Studios is actually a tech company utilizing AI, AR and digital distribution and merchandising platforms in concert with its TV and film components. Derived from Hensley’s pharma/tech business models, the synergies formed from his ‘Top-Down’, approach of total ownership of the value chain, are designed to elevate and enable fast scaling-up of the Studio’s value and assets valuation.”
Attorneys David Grossman anbd Edward K. Lee of Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles are representing CBS in the lawsuit.
Dade Hayes contributed to this report