LOS ANGELES (CN) - Stan Lee Media claims it lost licensing rights to "Conan the Barbarian" after its in-house counsel set up a back-door deal to transfer the rights away during the midst of the media company's bankruptcy.
The publically-owned production company bought out Conan Properties in September 2000, which held the rights to the character, including "stories, plot lines, themes, characters ... and all books, magazines, comics, movies, recordings, television and merchandise," according to the complaint in federal court.
Conan Sales Co. sold the Conan properties in exchange for 400,000 shares in Stan Lee Media, which was worth about $4.3 million, the action states.
When Stan Lee Media filed for bankruptcy less than six months later, Conan Sales claimed the production company had defaulted on the stock agreement, the production company says.
Stan Lee Media claims its attorney, Arthur Lieberman, played both sides of the fence - while acting as its counsel, he held shares in Conan Sales and supported its motion pertaining to the alleged default.
Lieberman also served as "personal counsel" to comic legend Stan Lee, who was busy setting up two other entities - QED Productions LLC and POW! Entertainment Inc. while Stan Lee Media was buried under bankruptcy proceedings, according to the complaint.
The production company claims it spent years trying to "free [Stan Lee Media] from Lee's control and adverse domination," and is now trying to win back assets that were secreted away or unlawfully transferred out of its control.
In April 2002, the media company's controller, Junko Kobayashi, signed-off on a settlement with Conan Sales that allowed it to take back its interest in Conan Properties in exchange for a mere $275,000, Stan Lee Media claims. Only the attorneys involved in the settlement, including Lieberman, and "other administrative claimants" received the settlement pay-out, according to the lawsuit.
Stan Lee Media claims its 1,800 shareholders were not given notice of settlement, Kobayashi was not an "alternate authorized agent" to sign-off on the deal and the company's board did not approve the agreement.
The media company says the transfer of Conan Properties and its licensing rights, including rights to the newly-released "Conan the Barbarian 3D," is void. Although Lee and his attorney held onto all the records associated with the Conan Properties settlement, they refuse to allow Stan Lee Media to look at the files, the media company says.
Stan Lee Media wants Conan Properties and all Conan-related rights back, along with all profits the defendants made from licensing the rights to the comic book character. Stan Lee Media is represented by Robert Kohn of Los Angeles and Luke McGrath with Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller of New York.