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Ex-Employee Calls Garth Brooks a Liar

(CN) - Garth Brooks is a "paranoid, angry, deceitful and vindictive man" who sabotaged TV and film deals his business partner set up and owes her hundreds of thousands of dollars, the former partner claims in court.

Lisa Sanderson sued Brooks and his production company Red Strokes Entertainment, in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Sanderson claims Brooks "is willing to lie to avoid paying his debts, and he revels in using his vast wealth and influence to crush anyone who Brooks believes is standing in the way of him getting what he wants."

After becoming a country music star, Brooks wanted to move into film and TV, "where he believed he would be an even bigger star," Sanderson says in the complaint.

She claims Brooks induced her to abandon her successful career in television to become his producing partner at Red Strokes. Brooks, she claims, used his "infectious charisma" and promised her they would "'make millions' together."

Sanderson claims Brooks promised her 50 percent of producer fees for projects they developed or produced, in addition to her "relatively small salary."

"Brooks further represented on numerous occasions that in the vent they did not make millions of dollars developing and producing film and television projects, and/or if Red Strokes ceased doing business for any reason while Sanderson was still employed there, Sanderson would be paid a bonus of $250,000 to compensate her for her loyalty and years of service to Brooks and Red Strokes," the complaint states. "Those statements were lies."

The complaint continues: "Brooks refused to split the producer fees paid to Red Strokes in connection with a television movie produced by Sanderson, and instead instructed the studio to stop payment on a check it had issued directly to Sanderson and issue a new check for the entire producer fee payable only to Red Strokes. Brooks told the studio that he 'would take care of' Sanderson, however, she never received a dime of her fifty percent (50%) of the producer fee."

Sanderson adds: "For nearly twenty (20) years, Sanderson worked tirelessly to make Brooks' dream a reality. However, Brooks' unreasonable demands torpedoed nearly all of the potential deals that came their way. ...

"By way of example, Sanderson introduced Brooks to Frank Darabont and arranged for him to write a role for Brooks as a sniper in the motion picture 'Saving Private Ryan,' which was directed by Steven Spielberg ('Spielberg'). Brooks refused to accept the role, indicating that he wanted to be the star and was unwilling to share the limelight with the rest of the ensemble cast, which included award-winning actors Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Edward Burns, among numerous other well known and critically acclaimed actors. Brooks further stated that although he idolized Tom Hanks, he did not believe anyone would ever want to see that movie. When Brooks rejected the role in 'Saving Private Ryan,' Spielberg asked Brooks what role did he want to play and Brooks replied, 'a bad guy.' Spielberg then sent Brooks the script for the film 'Twister.' Brooks also passed on that film, saying the star of the film was the tornado and Brooks wanted to be the star."

Sanderson claims that Red Strokes had a development deal with Disney, but "Brooks' arrogance and inability to collaborate with others cost Red Strokes multiple potentially lucrative Disney animated films."


Red Strokes also snared a development deal with Fox, during which Brooks pitched a project about a rock star worth more dead than alive, Sanderson claims. She says that during a meeting about the Fox project, Brooks spoke about his father dying and cried.

"Sanderson was thunderstruck and nearly fell out of her chair during the meeting, since she knew that Brooks' father was alive and well in Oklahoma. After the meeting, Sanderson confronted Brooks and told him she was stunned that he would lie about his father dying. Brooks looked Sanderson in the eye, chuckled and said, 'but don't you think it made the pitch so much better?'" the complaint states.

That deal was killed because Brooks refused to share his music publishing with Fox and because Brooks could not get along with Fox's executives, Sanderson claims.

She claims that they also had a chance to produce the Tim Burton-directed film "Alice in Wonderland," which made millions of dollars and won two Academy Awards. But Brooks refused that deal, unless he could co-write the script with the writer, Linda Woolverton, Sanderson claims.

Sanderson says Brooks told her "to call Woolverton and tell her that the deal was off unless she would agree that he could co-write the script with her. Sanderson warned Brooks that it would be a huge mistake to make that demand. Sanderson begged Brooks not to demand to co-write the script. Brooks refused and the agreement for Sanderson and Brooks to be producers on the film never went forward," according to the complaint.

And that's not all, Sanderson says: "Sanderson subsequently sold a script Brooks had written entitled 'Alyss' to New Line (Warner Bros.' independent film division) for $250,000. New Line spent at least $500,000 developing the project, and had arranged for Bruce Joel Rubin ('Rubin') (who wrote the screenplay for the film 'Ghost'), to re-write Brooks' script. Although New Line was prepared to greenlight the project with Rubin's rewritten script, Brooks claimed that he hated Rubin's rewrite and demanded that New Line reject Rubin's rewrite in favor of a rewrite by Brooks. As a direct result of Brooks' unreasonable demands regarding the script, New Line dropped the project."

Sanderson claims that the only projects Red Strokes produced were two television movies, including "Unanswered Prayers," for which she did the "lion's share of producing services."

"Pursuant to the agreement between Red Strokes and the studio that financed the production, the total producer fee payable to Red Strokes was $350,000. When production wrapped, the studio understood that Sanderson and Brooks were to split the producer fee and cut a check to Sanderson for $175,000 and a check to Brooks for $175,000. Brooks contacted the studio and asked that it stop payment on the checks and issue a check to Red Strokes for the entire $350,000 producer fee. Brooks represented to the studio that he 'would take care of' Sanderson directly. That was a lie. Sanderson was never paid any portion of the producer fee for her work on 'Unanswered Prayers,'" the complaint states.

Then Brooks decided to shut down Red Strokes and told Sanderson he would pay her the $250,000 bonus he promised, through bi-monthly paychecks until the entire amount had been paid, she claims.

"As Red Strokes began winding down its operations, consistent with Brooks' representations to Sanderson, Red Strokes continued issuing paychecks to Sanderson from January 2011 through April 2011. In May 2011, however, Red Strokes began deducting the entire amount payable to Sanderson from the paychecks," the complaint states. "Despite Sanderson's repeated demands that defendants stop issuing the dummy paychecks to her, defendants continued to do so through November 2011. Consequently, defendants falsely reported to the state and federal tax authorities that she had been paid income that she never received."

Sanderson claims Brooks also owes her for placing his song "To Make You Feel My Love" in the movie "Hope Floats."

Sanderson seeks $425,000 in unpaid wages and punitive damages for fraud, breach of agreement and breach of faith

She is represented by Martin Singer with Lavely & Singer.

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