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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Film Director Says Associate Stole $800,000

SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) - "Howard's End" director James Ivory says in a federal lawsuit that a former associate made off with nearly $1 million Merchant Ivory Productions should have received from the sale of a Parisian apartment and office.

In a lawsuit filed in the federal court in Savannah, Ivory says in 2008 he asked John Gilbert Donaldson, also known as Gil Donaldson, a part-time resident of both Savannah and Paris, is he would oversee the sale of Merchant Ivory's property at 18 Rue Montmarte in the French city.

"To accomplish this task, Defendant, given his part-time residence in France, was responsible for showing the apartment to brokers and coordinating any prospective sale," Ivory says.

In May, 2009, Donaldson brokered the sale of Merchant Ivory's Paris office for approximately $472,600 and, in March, 2010, sold the apartment for more than $3.8 million. Ivory says most of those proceeds were to be used to pay off several of the film company's French creditors, leaving about $651,000 for Merchant Ivory.

But the money never materialized, and despite requests for a proper accounting, Donaldson has failed to explain what happened.

"At one point Defendant told Ivory the French Government took the balance of the Sales Proceeds," the complaint says, but "Defendant did not produce any documentation to support this assertion."

Ivory says when he pressed further, Donaldson claimed "that certain bank statements were never received from the bank."

With that, Ivory claims, Donaldson ceased all communications with Merchant Ivory Productions.

Ivory says, left with no other alternative, the production company was forced to hire local counsel in Paris to obtain copies of its monthly bank statements from HSBC France.

"After reviewing the statements and the cancelled checks, Plaintiffs learned defendant wrote checks to himself, withdrew cash and, upon information and belief, issued wire transfers to his bank account held with the Savannah Bank from MIP France's Bank Account. In total, Defendant's Misappropriations equal at least $260,889.89."

Additionally, "Together with the known misappropriations, there were additional wire checks issued from the bank account to unknown individuals and of approximately $188,536.25 and $340,478.97, respectively," according to the complaint.

Ivory is seeking $1.8 million in compensatory damages and more than $1 million in punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of corporate assets and negligence in management pursuant to French law.

He is represented by Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P.C. of Savannah, and Merle, Brown and Nakamura, P.C. of New York City.

Merchant Ivory Productions, an independent film company, is responsible for producing such films as "Howard's End," "A Room With a View," "The Bostonians" and "Quartet."

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