Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Film Billionaire Accused|of Dirty Dealing

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Scientists and a patent attorney sued the Morgan Creek film studio and its billionaire CEO, claiming they swiped "groundbreaking" technology that converts methane into hydrogen gas.

Attorney Armin Azod, scientists Shantanu Sharma and Dong Zhang and British economist Peter John sued James Robinson in Federal Court on Wednesday, claiming the Morgan Creek CEO agreed to pay their expenses and buy assets for $1.2 million to fund, develop and bring to market a chemical-manufacturing technology. In addition to Morgan Creek Productions and Robinson, they sued Cecilia LLC, which they say Robinson created for the sole purpose of the asset purchase agreement.

Claiming their technology is potentially worth billions of dollars, the team says they developed "novel chemical catalysts" to convert methane to methanol at a rate that is "30 to 40 percent more energy-efficient than current processes."

They filed two patent applications for the catalysts at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The plaintiffs, founding members of Novoform Technologies, say that though Robinson agreed to provide financing for the technology in June 2014 his "true intent was to defraud."

They feared that Robinson would renege on the deal after Kevin Costner claimed in a legal challenge that the executive had failed pay the star a share of profits from the 1991 movie "Robin Hood," and public records showed he had not paid residuals to entertainment industry unions, according to the lawsuit.

When Azod raised his concerns to Robinson at the Morgan Creek offices last year, Robinson pounded his fist on his desk and told the attorney: "'I'm a billionaire and I can do whatever the fuck I want!'" according to the complaint.

Robinson agreed to finance the technology in 2014 and agreed to pay Zhang a $65,000 salary plus benefits for one year, the lawsuit states. He gave Zhang an initial payment of $16,250 using a Morgan Creek check, but never paid the rest, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs say made a $200,000 payment against the purchase price and expense reimbursements but failed to make any more installment payments under the asset purchase agreement.

After the University of Chicago's Argonne National Laboratory released data demonstrating that the technology can make hydrogen gas from methane, Robinson "acted on this fraudulent intent" by "effectively stealing this technology from plaintiffs without paying what he agreed," according to the 31-page lawsuit.

He also promised to fund research at Argonne but made just one payment of $11,000, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiffs had hoped to dedicate their time and energy to develop and bring to market their technology, but are left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to prevent a gross injustice," the complaint states.

They seek compensatory and punitive damages for fraud, breach of contract, breach of faith and unfair competition.

They are represented by Michael Jaurigue of Glendale.

Neither Robinson nor Morgan Creek representatives were immediately available for comment Thursday.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.