LOS ANGELES (CN) — The family of the late Mexican-American singing superstar Jenni Rivera sued her onetime manager for $10 million, claiming he is violating a confidentiality agreement by telling all about her for a book and planned Univision television series.
Rivera trusted Pete Salgado, “her on-and-off business manager for a number of years,” to protect her and her children’s interests, Jenni Rivera Enterprises says in the Monday lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.
But after Rivera died in a plane crash December 2010 death, “Salgado chose to willfully and intentionally violate that trust, and to flagrantly dishonor Ms. Rivera’s memory,” the complaint states. “He did so by personally profiting from his public disclosure of confidential information about Ms. Rivera, which he expressly promised not to disclose, and encouraging and allowing others to profit as well.
“Salgado’s actions are not only shameful, but constitute clear breaches of contract and fiduciary duty.”
Jenni Rivera Enterprises LLC holds most of the singer’s assets and is headed by her sister and trustee, Rosa Rivera Flores.
Also named as defendants are three entertainment-industry businesses: Latin World Entertainment Holdings, Dhana Media, and BTF Media, and Latin World CEO Luis Balaguer.
Rivera was an all-around entertainer and considered “the most important female figure and top-selling female artist in the regional Mexican music genre,” according to the complaint. Billboard said she was “on the verge of mainstream celebrity status” when she died with six others in the state of Nuevo Leon. She was 43, with five children and two grandchildren.
Several months after Rivera’s death, former manager Salgado recommended that everyone connected to her estate or to Jenni Rivera Enterprises sign strict nondisclosure agreements, according to the complaint. He signed one as well, promising not to divulge any confidential information about Rivera or JRE to anyone, nor use such data for himself or others, the complaint states.
Instead, he wrote a book about Rivera, so far unpublished, which he and the other defendants are using as the basis for a planned TV series.
The Sept. 17, 2013 Non-Disclosure Agreement is attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit. So is a response from Salgado’s attorney, Stephen Rothschild, with King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano. In the letter, Rothschild calls the Non-Disclosure Agreement “a poorly executed forgery” that Salgado did not sign.”
JRE claims in the lawsuit that a forensic document examiner has declared Salgado’s signature to be genuine.
In his letter, Rothschild wrote that Rivera’s sister was trying to disrupt the forthcoming TV series “in which he [Salgado] and others have invested a great deal of time and money.” The reason for the “scare tactics,” Rothschild said, was so she could “pursue similar projects without competition.”
Billboard reported in May that JRE had joined with Telemundo to produce several projects about Rivera, including “a bio-musical television series based on her life.”
JRE attorney Philip Kelly said the Rivera family “wants to be — as they should — the ones who control what comes out about her and make sure it’s accurate.”
According to press releases and other publicity cited in the lawsuit, the Salgado/Univision series will be called “Su Nombre Era Dolores, la Jenn Que Yo Conocí,” or in English, “Her Name Was Dolores, the Jenn That I Knew.” Salgado will be the primary source and executive producer.
“In blatant breach of the agreement and his fiduciary duties, and for his own financial gain, Salgado has made, and continues to make, extensive disclosures to various people and entities regarding the business, financial and personal affairs of the late Ms. Rivera and JRE,” the complaint states.
This is not the first lawsuit involving the late singer’s life and death. In 2014, the company and another Rivera manager, Laura Lucio, sued each other over rights to publish a biography.
In July this year, the families of members of her entourage who died with her won a $70 million judgment against the small plane’s owner.
The new lawsuit “is a relatively straightforward case for us,” said attorney Kelly, with Kendall Brill & Kelly.
Attorney Rothschild could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction stopping Salgado’s disclosure and production of the TV series, any profits, and punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, interference with contract and unfair competition.
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