LOS ANGELES (CN) – In a wild and woolly tale, media mogul Frederick Field, heir to the Marshall Field department store fortune, says he was “duped” by consultants who lied their way into his movie company, then claimed to have taken it over, ousting the entire board, filing a bogus bankruptcy, and declaring themselves the “debtor-in-possession” of Radar Pictures.
Field founded the Interscope movie studio and co-founded Interscope Records, an independent label renowned for its hip-hop artists, including Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Tupac and Eminem.
Field, a billionaire, has produced more than 60 movies. His company Radar Pictures, a plaintiff, produced and helped finance “The Heartbreak Kid,” “The Last Samurai,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Amityville Horror,” according to the complaint.
Field, Radar Pictures and Radar 360 Entertainment sued Shawn L. Beswick, Patrick Panzerella, Timothy Batchelor, Donald R. Ashlock, Convergence Media, Four K Entertainment, John J. Gezelin, and Alan R. Smith in Superior Court.
According to the complaint: “After many years of successful operation, plaintiffs were approached by defendants who claimed to have a variety of financial backing, business models and plans to assist Radar Pictures with its growing entertainment finance needs. These individuals represented to Radar Pictures that they had a proven track record of raising funds in connection with motion picture production, providing consulting services and a variety of other entertainment finance related endeavors and services.”
Field claims Batchelor met with him and told him he could secure financing for movies through a “multimillion-dollar finance fund … [a] matrix of funds” Batchelor had created. He claims Batchelor claimed “that he had significant experience funding at different levels … relating to short-term bridge money, KKR, Oaktree” and other “sovereign wealth, private equity and pension funds.” He also claimed to have raised $40 million for movie producer Lucas Foster, and to have worked with DreamWorks, Fox, Sony and Disney, Field says.
But Field says, “none of this was true … Batchelor did not have ongoing or even past business experience or relationships with these entities or individuals.”
Field says that “having been duped into believing Batchelor, plaintiffs provided him with office space in their Los Angeles officer, where he was supposed to be working toward effectuating the goals of their relationship.” He says that “Batchelor was rarely at the office during this time [the summer of 2010] and did very little to actually raise capital for Radar or even gain an in to a capital fund. And while he claimed multiple funding opportunities were becoming available, Batchelor never moved on any of them. He became increasingly evasive and full of excuses as to why no progress was being made. Each time he was questioned as to his activities and the lack of any progress, Batchelor repeatedly claimed Radar Pictures’ papers were not in order, including the proposed business plan, and he said he was unable to do anything until Radar completed and ever-growing list of tasks.”
Early this year, Field says, Batchelor “advised Radar Pictures it would need more sophisticated financial expertise in-house-enter defendant Convergence Media.”
In July, Field says, he was presented with a consulting services agreement and executive services agreement, “through which, presumably, Radar Pictures would attain the in-house financial expertise Batchelor claimed was necessary to proceed with the financing. It was also around this time Radar Pictures first became acquainted with defendants Beswisk and Panzerella. And while defendants claims Convergence Media was formed to deal with certain FINRA regulations, on information and belief, plaintiff later learned this entity was formed to cover the individual defendants’ history of tax liens (Beswick), bankruptcies (Panzerella) and recent litigation (Batchelor) relating to their alleged trade secret violations.”
Field claims that “Batchelor, Beswick and Panzerella continued to misrepresent the experience and qualifications of each of them, including statements by each of them that Panzerella had vast experience representing private equity and hedge funds, and that they had significant experience in having many motion pictures green-lit through a variety of studios. Batchelor claimed he had raised upwards of one hundred and twenty million dollars ($120,000,000) over eighteen (18) months for DreamWorks Animation and bragged about his work for Fox and the television show, ‘Glee.’ … As it turns out, none of this was true.”
(At this point, 8 pages into the 19-page complaint, one is compelled to wonder why a billionaire film producer had not made a few phone calls to check these guys out.)
Field claims that the defendants “presented … agreements to Radar Pictures, claiming time was of the essence and they needed to be executed immediately in order to take advantage of another large investment fund called Victory Park Capital. According to defendants, this fund had a significant investment from a partnership between Fred Smith and another billionaire, both of whom defendants claimed to represent. These agreements turned out to be nothing more than a vehicle by which the defendants could gain access to Radar Pictures to form a platform from which to launch their attempt to wrest control of Radar Pictures from its rightful owners.
“In the meantime, however, after being paid tens of thousands of dollars in several installments under the agreements, it became apparent defendants were not who they said they were and lacked even the most rudimentary capabilities in providing entertainment financing and consulting services. And once it was obvious that defendants could not and would not perform the fund-raising and other promised services, Radar Pictures refused any further payments. Negotiations were, however, undertaken to settle the dispute. Defendants had, unfortunately, already gained their footing with Radar Pictures and put into action their plan to take over Radar Pictures.
“More particularly, once they were hired as consultants and given access to Radar Pictures’ corporate books and business affairs, under the guise of being consultants, defendants conspired to produce fraudulent minutes from a meeting of the Board of Directors held on September 9, 2011 and purport to use those fraudulent minutes to issues a controlling interest to themselves through entities they control. They claim to have issued themselves an 80 percent stake in the company’s outstanding shares through Convergence Media, which in turn designated another entity, Four K Entertainment Inc. as the holder of the stock.
“At roughly the same time defendants sought to coerce Radar Pictures into signing a management agreement with a significantly higher monthly stipend, a proposed waiver of claims against them, and other oppressive and unfair terms. Defendants also began to threaten to seek payment of what they claimed to have been owed under the earlier agreements directly from Radar Pictures associates. In fact, defendants went as far as to present a fraudulent irrevocable letter of direction to an account payable to Radar Pictures in which they purported to authorize the payment of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) directly to them.”
The troika also tried to oust Radar’s board of directors, including Field, “and to have named Convergence Media as the sole board member despite that only ‘natural persons’ may lawfully sit on a board,” the complaint states. “They further claim to have fired all of the executives at Radar Pictures and to have appointed defendant Ashlock at [sic] the company’s president. Defendants had no power or authority to effect any of these actions …”
Not only that: Field claims the triumvirate proceeded to try to throw Radar into bankruptcy.
“As part of their plan to take over Radar Pictures, on November 4, 2011 defendants purported to file for voluntary bankruptcy protection in the Central District Bankruptcy Court, bearing case number 2:11-bk-56008-BB. This was done with no notice or involvement of any of the plaintiffs herein who were virtually ambushed by the filing. This filing had the immediate effect of disrupting Radar Pictures’ ability to operate by causing a number of action[s] no doubt intended by defendant[s], including bank accounts being frozen, suspension of the operation of its payroll servicing company, causing its business partners to consider backing out of existing contracts, along with a whole wide range of other damage to be proven at trial.”
Field says he filed an emergency motion to dismiss the bankruptcy filing, upon which “defendant Ashlock and others worked to prepare a range of fraudulent documents to assist them in defending against the motion,” including “bogus minutes from the September 9, 2011 board meeting”.
The complaint now becomes like a gangster movie.
“Within a day of the filing [apparently, Field’s motion to dismiss] Ashlock and an apparent thug showed up at the office of Radar Pictures demanding access to the company and purporting to take control claiming to be the ‘debtor-in-possession’ of Radar Pictures. After trying to intimidate the employees of Radar Pictures, Radar personnel obtained the help of the building owner and the police were contacted. Before the authorities arrived, and upon learning of their approach, Ashlock and his cohort retreated from the premises.”
Field claims that “Ashlock continued to attempt to intimidate the board members of Radar Pictures through late-night phone calls and tacitly menacing emails claiming he was the ‘president of Radar Picture’ and suggested if they did not acknowledge the same, issues might arise. Ashlock then sent the fraudulent minutes and other illegitimate corporate documents around to the still-active board of Radar Pictures, demanding the board sign an affidavit attesting to their accuracy. These documents were forwarded around on or about November 13, 2011.”
Before we depart from this complaint, which Field might consider making into his next movie, we cite paragraphs 43-45: “In his email, Ashlock claims as justification for the bankruptcy filing: ‘Given the critical financial condition of the corporation, including the judgment in favor of 1821 Films, the pending litigation with Shirley Brener, and the dire circumstances with regard to the delinquency in the payment of rent for the office space at 10900 Wilshire Blvd., I believe that it is imperative that Radar continue to benefit from the automatic stay regarding the above matters afforded to it by the bankruptcy code.’
“Radar Pictures is not in a ‘critical financial condition,’ however, as there is no ‘judgment in favor of 1821 Films,’ there is no ‘pending litigation with Shirley Brener’ and there are no ‘dire circumstances’ relating to the company’s tenancy. These statements are all false.
“None of the board members signed the affidavits; to the contrary, each board member has sworn under penalty of perjury that the minutes do not accurately reflect what happened at the September 9, 2011 meeting and each has sworn no authority was given for Convergence to issue to itself a controlling block of shares. What is more, at no time was Convergence made (nor could it have been) made the sole member of Radar’s Board of Directors and at no time was it – or anyone else affiliated with defendants – authorized to fire the current executives at Radar.”
Field says his motion to dismiss was heard on Nov. 15, and that “Ashlock appeared at the hearing and repeatedly lied and misled the tribunal in an attempt to preserve the fraudulent filing. The bankruptcy law firm of Levene, Neale, Bender, Yoo & Brill, LLP (‘Neale Firm’) appeared at the hearing claiming to represent Radar Pictures …”.
Field says the Hon. Sherri Bluebond granted his emergency motion and dismissed the bankruptcy filing.
But wait: “Incredibly, later that same day, defendants, through the Neale Firm, filed yet another bankruptcy petition purportedly on behalf of Radar Pictures, bearing case number 2:bk-57249-RN; this despite that the Neale Firm had no authority from Radar Pictures to file a voluntary petition and despite that firm principal, David Neale, had been provided with significant evidence from the rightful board of Radar Pictures days before demonstrating the lack of merit to defendants’ claim to control Radar Pictures. The rightful owners of Radar Pictures did not authorize that filing, never hired Neale’s firm. The next morning Judge Bluebond issued a sue [sic] sponte order dismissing the petition and vacated any alleged stay arising from the filing, and precluding any further such filing for a period of 180 days or until such time as any ownership issues is [sic] resolved through a non-bankruptcy forum.”
Filed seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from taking any action with regard to Radar Pictures, bankruptcy particularly, an expedited hearing on ownership of the corporation, and punitive damages of at least $10 million, for conspiracy, promissory fraud, abuse of process, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of California’s Corporations Code.
He is represented by Jonathan Freund with Freund & Brackley.