LOS ANGELES (CN) – An agent-producer who claims to hold a stake in “Hawaii Five-O” filed a $10 million lawsuit against the daughter of the series’ late creator, claiming the show’s owners went behind his back and bargained away his profits for the 2010 CBS series remake.
George Litto, an agent who says he represented “Hawaii Five-O” writer-producer Leonard Freeman, sued Robin Bernstein in Superior Court for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, quantum meruit for unjust enrichment, accounting, constructive trust, and declaratory relief.
Other defendants are the trusts of (nonparties) Leonard Freeman, who passed away in 1974, and Rose Freeman, who managed the “Hawaii Five-O” property created by her husband until she died this year.
Rose Freeman, an actress who performed under the name Joan Taylor, was sole trustee of the Rose Freeman Revocable Trust. She was succeeded by Bernstein. Bernstein is also a trustee of the Leonard Freeman Revocable Trust, along with named defendant Union Bank.
In 1997, Litto and Rose Freeman formed L/F Productions LLC to manage the “Hawaii Five-O” property, the complaint states. Litto says that at that time, CBS, which broadcast the original show from 1968-1980, had taken legal action against the trusts to establish ownership of the show.
Then in 2009, Litto claims, the trusts wrested control of “Hawaii Five-O” by “purposely excluding” him from negotiations with CBS for a new version of the series, modifying an agreement Rose Freeman amended with the network just months after Leonard Freeman’s death in 1974.
“(I)n complete violation and derogation of plaintiffs’ rights, sometime after May 5, 2010, the trusts signed and entered into an agreement with CBS to materially modify the 1974 amendment in various respects, including, without limitation, changing material financial terms pertaining to the new television productions, including significantly reducing the percentage back-end participation provided for in the 1974 amendment and eliminating the extremely valuable no deficit/no production overage computation applicable to such a back-end participation in new episodes of ‘Hawaii Five-O’ (the ‘2010 CBS amendment’),” the complaint states.
The trusts never told CBS that L/F Productions needed to authorize the amendment, Litto claims.
“Plaintiffs still have never been provided with a copy of what they believe to be the written 2010 CBS Amendment,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs allege on information and belief that the CBS amendment provides for payment of specified fixed fees of at least $40-$50,000 for each episode of the new CBS television production of ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ and for a specified percentage profits or other back-end participation in proceeds derived from the new CBS production. Further plaintiffs are informed and believe, and thereon allege, that the CBS amendment and certain material terms thereof entered into by the trusts materially harmed and/or failed to adequately protect the company’s rights and prospects for future production of a potential ‘Hawaii Five-O’ motion picture.”
The new “Hawaii Five-O” was first broadcast in September 2010, was renewed for a second season, and for a third earlier this year.
Litto says that since he holds a 50 percent stake in L/F Productions he is entitled to half of the $2 million CBS paid to the trusts so far – but has yet to see a penny.
He claims that the trusts have also “diminished the potential return and payments to the company” because of the new version’s success.
“As stated in numerous press reports, the new ‘Hawaii Five-O’ is a highly lucrative ‘cash cow’ for CBS, already generating very lucrative and profitable syndication sales for the series in both domestic and foreign markets. Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and thereon allege, that the profits from the show in which the company would have shared (if not for the 2010 CBS amendment) on a no deficit/cost overage basis would have resulted in massive profits to the company of millions of dollars, and considerably in excess of the amounts that will be achieved as back-end participation under the 2010 CBS amendment,” the complaint states (Parentheses in complaint.)
Litto is represented by Robert Marshall with Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger. He seeks punitive damages.