LOS ANGELES (CN) – Entertainment attorney George Braunstein, founder of Stars for a Cause, claims he was defamed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which owns the Golden Globe Awards, and its president Philip Berk. Braunstein claims that Berk’s defamatory emails and phone calls caused Stars for a Cause sponsors Chrysler and Entertainment Tonight to withdraw from the 2010 Golden Globe charity campaigns.
“Berk knew the statements would damage their professional reputations and ability to conduct business and engage in successful fundraising opportunities,” Braunstein and Stars say in their Superior Court complaint.
Braunstein and his wife founded Stars for a Cause in 2006 “to raise money for charity by harnessing the celebrity ‘star power’ available during the Hollywood Award Show Season. Stars approaches celebrities, including award winners, nominees, and presenters at red carpet events and encourages them to associate themselves with items that are later auctioned with proceeds distributed to various charities,” the complaint states.
Through the Hollywood public relations firm Michael Russell Group, Braunstein says he raised more than $300,000 for the three 2010 Golden Globes charity campaigns. Sponsors who donated included Prince Charles’ The Prince’s Trust, The American Red Cross, and the United Nation World Food Programme, Braunstein says.
In November 2009, the Michael Russell Group “introduced Stars to Chrysler to act as a corporate sponsor for Stars to organize a campaign involving a charity auction of Chrysler automobiles which were signed and sponsored by various celebrities,” according to the complaint.
Braunstein says Chrysler donated six specially designed Chrysler 300s for the January 2010 Golden Globes Award show.
“Sometime after the 2010 Golden Globe award show, Berk suddenly became opposed to Stars’ and Braunstein’s involvement with Chrysler. For example, on January 27, 2010, Berk refused to approve a press release which identified Stars and Braunstein as sponsors of Chrysler charity campaign. And, Berk claimed in an email that Stars ‘had nothing to do with this project and if they intend to insinuate themselves in this they will be subject to another law suit,'” the complaint states. Berk referred to the Michael Russell Group’s Jan. 17, 2010 lawsuit against Berk, in which the Russell Group sought $2 million.
Braunstein claims that “Berk and HFPA Board member Frances Shoenberger carried out their defamatory phone and email campaign against Stars and Braunstein by contacting representatives of Chrysler, NBC, DCP, Entertainment Tonight (Stars’ media partner), and Access Hollywood. Berk and Shoenberger falsely claimed that Stars was a fraudulent organization and that Stars had been sued for fraud by one of its sponsors … [and] that Stars and Braunstein had perpetuated a fraud upon the Cunard Cruise Line.”
Braunstein claims that “Berk’s conduct has caused great harm to the professional reputation of Braunstein, and to Stars’ integrity and charity fundraising capabilities. … Defendants’ defamatory email and phone campaign was intended to disrupt Stars’ agreements with Chrysler, NBC, Entertainment Tonight, and did in fact cause Chrysler and Entertainment Tonight to terminate their agreements with Stars.”
Braunstein seeks punitive damages for defamation, interference with contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, and business code violations.
He is represented by Timothy McGonigle of Santa Monica.