LITTLE ROCK (CN) — The Los Angeles Daily News sued an Arkansas businessman, claiming he promised to digitize more than a century of its archives for $1 million, but began selling them off as soon as he got his hands on them.
The June 22 lawsuit from Los Angeles Daily News et al. is the latest in a string of complaints against North Little Rock businessman John M. Rogers, who has faced fraud and contract cases involving high-end collectibles since at least 2014.
Plaintiffs California Newspapers Partnership, Los Angeles Daily News Publishing Co., and Torrance Holdings also sued Rogers’ company JMFR LLC, in Pulaski County Court.
The publishers own of six California newspapers: the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Whittier Daily News, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the Redlands Daily Facts, and the Daily Breeze.
The publishers say Rogers agreed to create a digital library of their archives, dating back as far as the mid-1800s, for $1 million. He took possession of the collection in September or October of 2014.
The collection is known as the MediaNews Archive and includes “photographs, photo negatives, transparencies, contact sheets, collectable items (including but not limited to maps, postcards, handbills, tickets or posters.)”
The LA Daily News archive includes about 15 million photographs, negatives, and clip files. The other five archives are photo negatives.
Unbeknownst to the newspapers, Rogers and his companies were already under pressure from creditors for defaulting on loans, and he immediately began selling the collection, the publishers say.
“Upon information and belief and unknown to the plaintiffs at the time, when the LA Daily News Agreement was executed, Rogers had already started marketing to sell selected photos and negatives related to professional Los Angeles sports teams from the MediaNews Negative Archive,” the complaint states.
After taking possession of the collection, he gave a portion to an Illinois man as repayment for a loan, and sold security interests to other debt collectors, the publishers say.
“In or about August 2015, Rogers negotiated an Asset Sale and Purchase Agreement between JMFR and Red Alert Media Matrix Inc. Pursuant to that agreement, JMFR would sell the assets of the MediaNews Archive, including all original photographs, photographic negatives, and corresponding digital files, with metadata attached, to Red Alert for $2,500,000,” the lawsuit states.
The newspapers say they do not know where millions of their photos and negatives are.
They seek punitive damages for conversion, fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and deceptive trade.
They also want an accounting of items sold through online auction websites.
They are represented by Allen Dobson with Baxter, Jewell & Dobson of Little Rock.
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