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July 11, 2007


June 9: Stan Lee Media, Inc. Files Expected Lawsuit Against Stan Lee

The current owners of Stan Lee Media, Inc., an entity incorporated in Colorado, have filed a lawsuit against that company's representative personality, the comics industry legend Stan Lee. This follows a lawsuit filed in New York last March against Marvel.

Here is the June 9 filing in its entirety in PDF form.

SLMI_Complaint.pdf

A few notes.

1. This could be a more serious lawsuit than some think. The firm filing this one, O'Donnell and Associates, seems more of a major player than one tends to see filing shakedown suits for some get-rich-quick folks swinging for the fences. They would likely charge more than someone trying to shake a settlement out of someone would want to pay. Pierce O'Donnell is perhaps best known for representing Art Buchwald in his famous Coming to America lawsuit against Paramount Pictures. The firm has a number of significant clients, and its litigators have a celebrity case pedigree.

2. If you've been following the story, you know that at its heart is an Employment Agreement/Rights Assignment that the plaintiffs believed Lee entered into with Stan Lee Media in October 1998. (That date is in dispute, some saying it wasn't formalized until 13 months later; others noting that it may have been an agreement with an SLM precursor.) Basically, the plaintiffs feel that agreement assigned all of Stan's business endeavors and rights to same to Stan Lee Media, save for monies earned for the publicity duties Lee performed under a lifetime contract with Marvel. This includes all the work he did for the company, all the work he started while at the company that has since gone on to be utilized by POW!, things like his newspaper strip work, and, most importantly in a dollars and cents way, a claim for 10 percent of Marvel's film profits that Lee's lawyers later negotiated into a settlement for a sum believed to be in the low eight figures.

Of course, nearly every word in those last two sentences is up for debate, too.

3. Although I suppose its legal standing will be the issue, I note that unlike some cases you read about, where some contractual clause pops up like a lost Aunt, it's not like this agreement (however it came to be) came out of nowhere when the lawyers showed up. It was actually a point of reference in the early days of SLM. At the time, however, Stan signing that document was more of a big deal for the company's launch in a PR sense, as it showed Stan publicly throwing his weight behind the new venture over Marvel.

4. There's a lot of bankruptcy timeline material and tracking more current SLM activity as the plaintiffs believe pertains to Lee that I had a much harder time following in their specifics but I think the general nature of their inclusion in the filing is pretty clear. One interesting thing is that it may switch the case's focus away from whether or not Stan Lee signed the craziest employment agreement in the history of the world and the nature of his relationship to the material at Marvel, probable plaintiff weak points, and more onto whether or not Lee managed assets for his own benefit that no matter their origin should have gone to work on behalf of the bankruptcy difficulties SLM suffered.

5. There is also a long list of formal SLM properties like Stan's Evil Clone that some may want to read about even if they have no interest in the legal issues involved.

6. Because Lee's assets can be found within those companies, the suit includes Lee-related business QED and POW! Entertainment.

7. A birdie told me, and one should always take avian legal commentary with a grain of rice, that depending on where Lee's assets are located there could be court decisions that place resources in dispute off the table and out of Lee's reach, making it more difficult for Lee to maintain a defense. I'm not sure I have that right; lots of chirping.
 
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink
 

 
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