MANHATTAN (CN) - Bravo is screwing two creators of "Real Housewives" out of royalties for the hit series and its spinoffs, a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court alleges.
"This is a case about the real story behind the Real Housewives - a case of textbook fraud and self-dealing," the complaint filed Wednesday states, opening like a voiceover for a reality show of the ilk from which it spawned.
Patrick Moses, Kevin Kaufman and their company, Ventana LLC, are two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, taking aim at their former business partner, Scott Dunlop, as well as Bravo Media Dunlop Group, Realand Productions LLC and Ventena Ventures Inc.
The idea for the ground-breaking reality television show, which first aired in 2006, allegedly stemmed from Dunlop's life in Coto de Caza, a gated community in Orange County, Calif., that had a "unique buzz and character."
Kaufman, "an experienced" television producer who often visited Coto de Caza to see his old friend Dunlop, says he helped bring life to the "entertainment opportunity" that the community offered.
Dunlop was "exploring staging a satirical community-theatre type program in Coto de Caza" but, with help from fellow television producer Moses, the trio wound up taking "The Real Housewives of Orange County" to Bravo in 2005.
Behind the scenes, however, Dunlop secretly swung a deal with Bravo that cut Moses and Kaufman out, a move he attributed to Bravo's desire for a cheaper production company, according to the complaint.
Dunlop allegedly said Bravo tapped him, because of his residence in Coto de Caza, to be its "local fixer," and would pay him "only a few thousand dollars" for those services.
"In fact, Dunlop was continuing as an executive producer of the program and stood to earn many millions of dollars having misappropriated Ventana's valuable contract rights for himself," the complaint states.
Disappointed, the plaintiffs say they sold their interests in the project in January 2007 for a mere $8,500.
Bravo allegedly took steps to "avoid liability for its misconduct" by having Dunlop state in the termination agreement that the three owners of Ventana had "no rights of any kind or nature" in the show.
"Dunlop was well aware that this representation was a blatant lie as Moses was still a member of Ventana and Kaufman had only relinquished his interest by virtue" of fraud, the complaint states.
In addition to spinoffs about the "real housewives" of New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills and Miami, for a total of 715 episodes, the complaint notes that the show also led to "Date My Ex," "Tamara's OC Wedding," "Betheny's Getting Married," "Vanderpump Rules," "Don't Be Tardy," "The Khandi Factory" and "I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding.".
Moses and Kaufman say there are even similar shows now in Canada, Brazil, France, Australia and Greece.
Bravo declined to comment on the action Thursday.
Moses and Kaufman seek damages for fraud, conspiracy, aiding and abetting and breach of contract.
They are represented by John Magliery with Johnson Gallagher Magliery LLC.
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