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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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‘Welcome to Hollywood!

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A start-up management company claims Hollywood party planner J. Ben Bourgeois duped it into hosting a Vanity Fair Oscar party at its Los Angeles estate for free and pocketed a $75,000 facility fee he charged the magazine, while telling Vanity Fair that the start-up's CEO was merely a "groundskeeper," ruining what the company thought would be its launch.

Accomplice Lifestyle sued Bouregois and J. Ben Bourgeois in Superior Court.

Accomplice describes itself as "a nascent company providing personal management and estate club services for high net worth individuals."

To help launch its brand, Accomplice says, it hired Bourgeois to plan a Vanity Fair Oscar viewing party, and they entered a written agreement.

"The big launch event was to be for Accomplice to host, on Accomplice's private estate, the Vanity Fair Oscar viewing party so that Accomplice could share in Vanity Fair's valuable brand equity," the complaint states.

Accomplice says it made expensive improvements to the house, landscape and lighting and took out insurance policies, following Bourgeois' advice.

Alas: "On the day of the Oscars, the Accomplice team found out that defendant had lied to both her and Vanity Fair. Defendant had falsely represented to Vanity Fair that Accomplice's CEO, Elizabeth Mazzocchi was the mere 'caretaker' of the house. In reality, defendant charged $75,000 to Vanity Fair for the house Accomplice provided for free of charge. Defendant never told Vanity Fair about Accomplice, nor made any introductions to the advertisers and brand partners promised," the complaint states. Accomplice claims that Bourgeois set up the whole deal so he could pocket the $75,000.

The complaint states: "On November 30, 2010, Mr. Bourgeois sent an e-mail to Ms. Mazzocci with a proposition: If Accomplice, among other things, would provide the Accomplice luxury compound called The Delfern Estate (the 'Estate') at no cost, JBB could get Vanity Fair to host its exclusive Oscar Viewing Party (hereinafter the 'Vanity Fair Oscar Event') with Accomplice Lifestyle as a 'marketing partner.' JBB noted that the event would be attended by 'all chairs and presidents of the top luxury brands' and that it would be a 'great opportunity to show the estate to potential corp[orate] partners for Accomplice.' Ms. Mazzocchi e-mailed Mr. Bourgeois asking him to confirm that he felt 'this is a good fit for VF [Vanity Fair].' Defendant responded enthusiastically via email, stating that it 'could be the start of a great relationship.' Mr. Bourgeois even congratulated Ms. Mazzocchi, stating that the Vanity Fair Oscar Event could become an annual event for Accomplice."

"Ms. Mazzocchi, recognizing what she believed was a rare opportunity, promptly directed this information to her board and her investors. She immediately began making arrangements to gain possession of the estate prior to its initially selected move-in-date, for the exclusive purpose of hosting the event. Ms. Mazzocchi asked JBB for the Vanity Fair deal memo in order to share this information with her team, her attorneys, and the insurance company. In response, JBB claimed that Vanity Fair was an ongoing client and that no such deal memo existed." (Brackets in complaint.)

Accomplice claims that Bourgeois canceled every meeting regarding the Oscar party and repeatedly asked for a $37,500 deposit on his consulting fee. It claims that the consulting contract was for 12 future Accomplice events, not the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Mazzocchi says she paid the $37,500 deposit to Bourgeois out of fear she would lose Vanity Fair as a client.

Accomplice claims Bourgeois charged Vanity Fair an exorbitant fee to use the estate and claimed Mazzocchi was merely its "groundskeeper" to deter Vanity Fair representatives from communicating with Accomplice.

"Ms. Mazzocchi had several encounters with the JBB team that aroused her suspicion regarding JBB's intentions," the complaint states. "On the day of the Oscars, Ms. Mazzocchi sent an email directly to Vanity Fair asking for some information. In response, Ms. Mazzocchi immediately received a call back from the Associate Publisher of Creative Services for Vanity Fair who stated that Vanity Fair had never heard of Ms. Mazzocchi or Accomplice. Further, JBB had charged Vanity Fair $75,000 to rent the Estate for the party and that JBB had told Vanity Fair that JBB had exclusive right to the property. This was the first time Vanity Fair had conducted business with JBB as well.

"Accomplice was completely unaware of the fact that JBB intended to and, in fact, did stage the Vanity Fair Oscar event at the estate at the enormous expense to Accomplice while Accomplice would have nothing to do with either the event or Vanity Fair.

"Moreover, after failing to render any service whatsoever pursuant to the contract to serve as Accomplice's special events coordinator, and fraudulently inducing Accomplice to host the event with no benefit to Accomplice, JBB resigned only days after the Oscars. JBB returned only $15,000 of the $37,500 retainer."

Accomplice seeks punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud and deceit, negligent misrepresentation, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, unjust enrichment and violation of the Business & Professions Code.

It is represented by S. Michael Kernan of Beverly Hills.

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