The case of IDW Senior Advisor Chris Fenton filing a $30 million lawsuit against Valiant owners DMG, continues to unfold in court. As DMG countersue for the same figure.
First, a reminder of what we know. Fenton facilitated the buyout of Valiant Entertainment by DMG, but left shortly afterwards and took up a competitive position at IDW.
The suit accuses 'the founders of cutting him out of wealth generated by an IPO and then running the company into the ground.' That, on leaving DMG in February last year, 'he was fired after complaining that the founders had reneged on their promise to make him "rich" after the IPO of the Chinese portion of the group.' And that the suit alleges that they "have fled China and left DMG's presence in China in shambles, with hundreds of employees losing their jobs." And that Dan Mintz, Wu Bing, and Peter Xiao are named in the suit, accused of 'reckless risk-taking, and of engaging in complex financial manoeuvring to get money out of China.'
That 'the founders borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars secured by DMG stock and used the funds to buy a $20 million mansion in Beverly Hills, multiple airplanes, including a $30 million Bombardier jet, and luxury vehicles, including Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris. The suit says that the founders also took on millions in debt to pay for experimental regenerative medical treatments.'
And that 'Mintz asked Fenton to propose an unusual deal to A-list actors, directors and producers. Under the terms, DMG would give the artist $45 million over three years. In exchange, the artist would give DMG $30 million over the same period. The cost to DMG would be hidden, while the money received would be booked as revenue. According to the suit, the goal of the arrangement was to take advantage of the company's high stock multiple. Fenton's suit says he actually tried to pitch the deal to one A-list actor and a producer, without success. An attorney for one of them told Fenton it did not "pass the smell test."'
In response, DMG representatives told Bleeding Cool that 'Chris Fenton's frivolous suit against DMG Entertainment is a fabrication of his own imaginations. None of the claims asserted by Chris Fenton in the unfiled complaint have any merits. DMG is looking forward to defending this case to expose the true nature of Chris Fenton to the industry.
While DMG's attorney told me: 'My client's position is that Chris Fenton's assertions in the complaint, published by Variety without proper fact checking, are factually wrong. Specifically, Chris Fenton had been a contracted employee by DMG Entertainment for four (4) years and not 17 years as he asserts. Chris Fenton's contract was terminated due to his poor performance and asset mismanagement of investments which costs DMG millions of dollars. During his tenure Chris Fenton was not tasked to work for Yinji Entertainment & Media Company, a Chinese publicly traded company. During his tenure he was paid an annual salary of $200,000 plus $800,000 per year as part of the purchase of his talent company. His contract did not promise him any bonus or other compensation other than his $200,000 annual salary. Chris Fenton also misled the company in the purchase of his talent company which dramatically underperformed his stated revenue projections.'
Well, DMG have followed through on their promise and have launched a $30 million counterclaim suit alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence which states that "Fenton was driven by his own ego and desire for personal glorification in the public eye; in order to cultivate the persona of a 'player,' his priority was getting a deal 'done,' rather than looking out for the best interest of DMG CC'" while losing millions of dollars for the company, specifically on a deal to produce live shows in China featuring the Transformers characters. That the shows were delayed, Fenton's production partner, S2BN, allowed its licensing deal with Hasbro to expire and as a result the shows were never produced. The suit states that Fenton was "either was unable or unwilling to carry out even the most basic managerial tasks" and was claiming credit for others' work. And even that Fenton made 'misstatements' to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in order to gain admission, and used his membership "for his own personal gain rather than for the benefit of DMG CC"
Fenton's attorney, John R. Baldivia, issued this response to Variety, saying "We find it interesting that our client, who was responsible for putting together the deals for both 'Iron Man 3' and DMG's ownership of Valiant (as well as many other successful endeavors that DMG now brags about) is now on the receiving end of a cross-complaint concerning his performance as a former DMG employee. As we have said before, we will allow the facts to speak to the truth about DMG's actions, as well as the actions of our client."
While DMG spokesperson replied "Once again, Fenton is trying to take credit for work he didn't do. He made a mess of those deals, which others had to clean up."
This looks like it will be getting nastier, fast. It's also interesting to note in Variety's comment section another war taking place.
Minutes after the second article went up, it started getting supportive messages for Chris, a number of whom were claiming to be from former DMG employees. This was then followed a few hours later by a bunch of comments purporting to be from current DMG employees.
And checking back with the previous Variety article, there were similar responses, though we got a few named as well.
I'm sure many are genuine, and while we certainly can't say for sure, one suspects some gamesmanship there on both sides of the issue. Feel free to leave your legit reaction to this matter in the Bleeding Cool comments section below.