No One's Laughing at The Onion
WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - The Onion's majority shareholder deprived a co-founder of executive producer credit for The Onion Movie, which he helped develop, the co-founder claims in court.
Peter K. Haise sued David K. Schafer in Palm Beach County Court.
Schafer is the only defendant.
The Onion, a digital media company based in Chicago, runs a satiric website reporting on current events, both real and fictional. Originally a print publication, The Onion launched its website in 1996, and stopped print editions in December 2013.
Haise, one of the founders and the former president of The Onion, sold Onion shares to Schafer in 2003, according to the lawsuit.
Haise claims the stock purchase agreement guaranteed he would receive credit as executive producer for a movie then scheduled to be produced under the working title "Onion, Inc.'s Untitled Sketch Comedy."
He claims Schafer, who became the Onion's majority shareholder and a member of the board of directors, denied him the executive producer credit, despite Haise's direct involvement in the development of the film.
The film was released in June 2008 under the title "The Onion Movie," with the subtitle, "America's Finest News Source."
Although Haise negotiated with the movie producer to preserve The Onion brand in making the movie and to secure his executive producer credit, Schafer allowed The Onion to list two other people as executive producers for the film, and denied Haise his credit, according to the lawsuit.
"Onion, Inc., acting through its agents, including Schafer, made a conscious, malicious decision to disregard Haise's right to receive an executive producer credit for the film," the complaint states. "Upon information and belief, those in control of Onion, Inc., at the time of the film's release, including Schafer, were reminded of the requirement to give an executive producer credit to Haise for his prior involvement and pursuant to the agreement, and made an intentional decision not to provide the credit."
Haise says he intends to produce and participate in the development of other films.
By denying him the executive producer credit, he claims, Schafer hurt his chances to secure financing in the highly competitive film industry.
Haise says he would have asked for a higher price for his shares if Schafer had not agreed to the producer credit clause.
Haise seeks damages for breach of contract, breach of good faith, and fiduciary duty.
He is represented by Kent Frazer with Akerman LLP.