Film Financier Says He Was Snookered
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Aria Entertainment, which specializes in straight-to-DVD low-budget remakes and sequels, claims in court that ex-employees stole trade secrets and sabotaged a production deal with Sony.
Aria Entertainment, Aria Capital Partners and their principal Daniel Touizer claim lead defendant Rui Costa Reis, an investor, and former Aria employees, defendants Eliad Josephson and Nzinga Garvey, conspired to form a "virtual 'clone'" of Aria, defendant RCR Media Group, and snatched the Sony deal away from their former employer.
Touizer also sued RCR affiliates and the Stroock, Stroock & Lavan law firm, its partner Schuyler Moore, and associate David McGriff, in Superior Court.
Touizer formed Aria in 2007 to finance straight-to DVD follow-ups of Hollywood movies, for budgets of $4 million to 10 million, the complaint states.
Touizer says he hired employees and consultants to fine-tune his business plan and attract investors and Hollywood studios.
He claims Aria appointed Garvey as a chief operating officer in the summer of 2007, retained Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, and hired Josephson to secure investors.
Touizer claims Costa Reis promised to invest $10 million in the Aria Capital fund after Aria made a deal with Sony in 2009 to co-produce "qualifying pictures" "Stomp the Yard," "30 Days of Night," "Lake Placid 3" and "Wild Things 4."
However, "(O)ver a period of several months, during October and November of 2009, defendants Reis, Josephson and Garvey eviscerated the Aria Group's operations, stole Aria's trade secrets, diverted Aria's key investor and using Aria's funds, staff, advisers and attorneys, created competing companies to take the Aria's business opportunities, duplicated the Aria Group's business structure, and usurped the Aria Group's corporate opportunities, forming a virtual 'clone' of the Aria Group's business model in which, on information and belief, they illegally profited by obtaining significant benefit from, and major equity interests in, the competing companies," the complaint states.
Touizer claims that Josephson and Garvey downloaded Aria Entertainment's proprietary information, including Touizer's business plan and documents on the Sony deal.
In November 2011, Garvey told Touizer that Costa Reis was withdrawing his $10 million commitment to Aria, and that the deal with Sony was dead, the complaint states.
But Touizer claims that after Costa Reis withdrew his offer, he "actively conspired" with Josephson and Garvey to form RCR and snatch the Sony deal away from Aria.
"But for the sham diversion of the Aria-Sony co-production agreement, and the transfer of the fruits of that contract and related business information, documents, trade secrets and corporate opportunities to defendants, Touizer and the Aria Group would have received enormous economic gain from the Aria-Sony co-production agreement and other corporate opportunities," the complaint states.
Touizer claims that profits from the deal could have exceeded $20 million. He seeks an accounting and damages for misappropriation of corporate opportunities, interference with contractual relations, interference with prospective business advantage, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, unfair competition, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, injunctive relief, legal malpractice, and imposition of a constructive trust.
He is represented by Martin Barab, with Hamrick & Evans, of Universal City.