MANHATTAN (CN) – Songwriter Mitch Leigh and the widow of the man with whom he wrote the music for “Man of La Mancha” demand $10 million from their former agent, Tonda Martin and The Marton Agency. Leigh and Helen Darion – the widow of Joe Darion – say Marton hid income from licenses and foreign royalties for more than a decade, sent money due to the authors to sub-agents, and killed a lucrative licensing deal with a reputable firm “in favor of a license with a new agency operated by a friend of Marton that was unknown to the authors, for a trifling advance, and actively concealing the entire transaction from the Authors.”
Leigh and Darion claim in New York County Court that after they dismissed Marton in 2008, they found that she had favored the interests of Dale Wasserman, who wrote the book for the play.
Tonda Martin also operates as The Elisabeth Marton Agency, according to the complaint, which states:
“Until recently, Marton and TMA acted as the Authors’ exclusive licensing agent
for foreign language productions of ‘La Mancha’ outside the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, pursuant to an oral agreement that was terminable by the Authors at will. That agency was terminated by the Authors in October 2008, soon after the Authors first learned of certain facts, previously hidden by Defendants for years, that led them to reluctantly conclude that Defendants had favored the interests of Mr. Wasserman, their co-author, over their own, and exploited the trust and confidence that the Authors had reposed in them as their agent, in breach
of their fiduciary duties to the Authors, to Defendants’ financial benefit, and in utter disregard of the financial and artistic interests of the Authors.
“Recent investigation has revealed that Defendants’ misdeeds were numerous and egregious, including: (i) failing to account for or pay at least tens of thousands of dollars in royalties that Defendants collected on the Authors’ behalf from foreign licensing transactions in several countries, in some cases, for as long as 15 years; (ii) licensing and otherwise exploiting rights in the Play and elements of the Play for which they had no authority, and failing to pay the royalties generated as a result of those activities to the Authors, while concealing their activities from the Authors; (iii) entering into and renewing multi-year licenses of up to ten years, in violation of standard industry practice, without negotiating for or obtaining suitable advance payments to the Authors, to insure that Defendants would continue to earn commissions for years to come, and in disregard of the interests of the Authors; (iv) terminating a lucrative license with a longstanding, well-known and trusted German licensee, in favor of a license with a new agency operated by a friend of Marton that was unknown to the authors, for a trifling advance, and actively concealing the entire transaction from the Authors; (v) permitting revisions to the Play, without the Authors’ knowledge or consent, and contrary to the Authors’ longstanding and well documented artistic preference not to permit such revisions; (vi) permitting the Play to be performed with recorded music, without the Authors’ knowledge or consent, and contrary to the Authors’ longstanding and well documented artistic preference to use only a live orchestra for all performances of the Play; (vii) engaging foreign sub-agents without the knowledge of the Authors, and concealing the fact that the sub-agents were receiving substantial commissions that reduced the amount of the royalties being paid to the Authors; (viii) failing to account for foreign taxes withheld from royalties paid by foreign licensees, and failing to report same to the Authors on their 1099 tax forms, resulting in an overpayment of taxes by the Authors; (ix) improperly taking foreign tax credits belonging to the Authors as deductions on Defendants’ tax returns; (x) taking actions at the request of, and for the benefit of Wasserman, whose interests are often in conflict with those of the Authors, notwithstanding Defendants’ knowledge that Wasserman had no right to unilaterally make decisions affecting the Play on behalf of the authors.
“For many years, Defendants deliberately concealed these activities from the Authors, and prevented them from discovering the extent of Defendants’ misdeeds, which are only partially known to date.
“Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs now assert claims for fraud, fraudulent concealment, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, conversion, breach of contract, and an accounting. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages and punitive damages from Defendants, as well as an order requiring Defendants to disgorge and pay over to the Authors, all of the monies improperly obtained by Defendants in the past or in the future, due to their disloyal acts in breach of their fiduciary duties to the Plaintiffs, and a declaration that Defendants are not entitled to any payment of any further commissions to be paid in the future arising from foreign licenses of the Play issued by Defendants while acting as Plaintiffs’ agent.”
Leigh and Darion’s greatest hit from “Man of La Mancha,” which is loosely based on Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” is “The Impossible Dream.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Robert Lillenstein with Moses and Singer.