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Film financier sues Miramax owners

Ben Fritz
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Troubled film financier David Bergstein has sued the owners of Miramax, alleging that they denied him money and an equity stake owed for his role in the acquisition of the film label from Walt Disney Co. in 2010.

The suit, filed Monday in L.A. Superior Court by the law firm Weingarten Brown, contends that Bergstein — who has been involved in dozens of lawsuits, many related to his activities in the film business — played a crucial role in the deal to acquire Miramax. It asserts that Santa Monica, Calif., private equity firm Colony Capital, one of Miramax’s new owners, and its principal Richard Nanula conspired to deny Bergstein a $6.1-million fee and 3.3 percent stake they agreed to provide him as part of the purchase.

“Defendants have lined their own pockets to the tune of tens of millions of dollars while reneging on the compensation promised to the individual who made the highly lucrative deal happen for them,” the lawsuit alleges.

Colony and Nanula are named as defendants, as is Filmyard Holdings, the holding company that acquired Miramax in December 2010 for $660 million. The Qatari government’s Qatar Holdings and Ron Tutor — chief of construction firm Tutor-Perini Corp. and a longtime associate of Bergstein — also have stakes in Filmyard.

It was not clear what role Bergstein played in the acquisition, except that he was working with Tutor before Colony joined the acquisition team in July 2010. In the suit, Bergstein says he initiated talks with Disney, which had already put Miramax up for sale, and negotiated the structure of the deal.

He alleges that for his work he was promised two separate $6.1-million fees, one at closing and another when certain conditions were met, plus a 5 percent equity stake in Filmyard. At the urging of Tutor and Colony chief Tom Barrack, the complaint says, Bergstein later agreed to reduce his stake to 3.33 percent.

Colony declined to provide Bergstein with any documentation as part of his stake or a share of profits when the company was recapitalized last fall, the complaint alleges. In addition, Bergstein says he was not paid his second $6.1-million fee when conditions were met, though he did receive the first payment.

Bergstein contends that he was cut out because he has been the subject of negative news coverage related to his legal troubles from a string of troubled companies and business deals in which he has been involved.

“Unable to alienate their lender and principal investor on the one hand and unable to make the deal work without Bergstein’s efforts — Defendants chose instead to merely lie to their lenders and investors and to Bergstein until they no longer needed him,” the complaint states.

At a summer 2011 meeting, it says, “Nanula threatened Bergstein that if he continued to pursue his documented rights, Nanula would ensure Bergstein would ‘never see a penny.’”

A spokeswoman for Miramax and Colony said her clients had not been served with the lawsuit and had no comment.

Reached by phone, Tutor said he was unaware of the lawsuit. “I don’t know who owes what,” he said. “I know there were machinations.”

The lawsuit asks for at least $6.1 million plus the value of Bergstein’s 3.3 percent stake. It comes three weeks after Miramax’s former chief executive, Mike Lang, unexpectedly departed after clashes with the company’s board and staff.

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