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’50 Shades’ Greed Could Cost Publisher $10.7M

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) - A Texas judge ordered the Australian publisher of the erotic bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" to set aside over $10 million for a woman who claims she was cheated our of her share of the book's royalties.

Jennifer Lynn Pedroza, of Arlington, sued Amanda M. Hayward and TWCS Operations Pty. Ltd. in Tarrant County District Court in May 2014. She accused Hayward of engaging in "greed and self-dealing" by allegedly "conning" her business partners.

"Pedroza and Hayward, along with two others, were partners in The Writers Coffee Shop, which was the original publisher of, and owner of the publishing rights to, the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy," the complaint stated.

"Without consulting her partner Pedroza, and without complying with Texas law, Hayward tried to convert Coffee Shop into TWCS, an Australian sole proprietorship that she, alone, owned. She signed a contract with Random House for the rights to the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy, in exchange for millions in advances and future royalties but, because of her chicanery, all payments flowed to her and not to the partnership.

"After having already attempted to convert Coffee Shop, and without disclosing that she had done so, Hayward told her partners that the partnership prospectively needed to be restructured into an entity solely owned by her for 'tax reasons.' She then fraudulently induced Pedroza and Beebe into signing 'service agreements' with TWCS, and subsequently terminated both of them," the complaint said.

Over 70 million copies of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy were sold when the books debuted in 2012, according to publishing industry sources.

A jury ruled in Pedroza's favor in February, but declined to set a dollar amount for damages. At a hearing Wednesday, State District Judge Susan McCoy ordered Hayward to put the money into the court registry by Sept. 24.

Forensic accountants testified that Pedroza's 25 percent interest in the $41 million earnings of the book is worth $10.7 million, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

McCoy declined to enter judgment in Pedroza's favor, instead allowing attorneys on both sides to negotiate an amount that includes attorneys' fees and interest. She expressed concern about a "lack of available funds" and that the biggest asset listed was Hayward's home in the suburbs of Sydney.

"I have still not signed the order," the judge said. "I have not crystallized what the money should be comprised of."

Hayward's attorney, David Keltner with Kelly Hart in Fort Worth, told the Star-Telegram his client does not have $10 million in cash to put into the court registry.

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