Akin Gump, Biglaw, California, Movies

Akin Gump to Movie Producer Client: Where’s Our Money, Man?

Legal services are expensive. Duh. And sometimes clients do not want to pay their bills. Maybe the case outcome wasn’t what the client hoped for. Maybe the bill was significantly higher than expected. There are all sorts of reasons that attorneys just have to say, “Eff you, pay me.

The thing is, you normally associate breach of contract disputes with litigation or other standard lawyering. Not Biglaw attorneys brokering movie finance deals, and suing when the client doesn’t pay his finders fee.

But Akin Gump filed suit last week against a Hollywood movie producer, for breach of contract and promissory fraud, alleging that he did not fork over the finders fee he owed a firm partner for helping secure loans and finding a distributor for one of his projects.

The firm says Mark Manuel owes a lot of money. So how much does he owe, and which movie is at the center of the controversy?

Manuel executive produced “Father of Invention,” a 2010 film starring Kevin Spacey and Heather Graham. Rotten Tomatoes gave it extraordinarily terrible reviews. A New York Times critic said, “The screenplay… is so sketchy that it feels like a hastily executed first draft.” That’s too bad, because Kevin Spacey is awesome, and Heather Graham is smokin’ hot.

But so how did Akin Gump get involved in the flop? And why is it suing one of the film’s executive producers for $2 million? Courthouse News helps us understand:

The law firm claims Manuel refused to pay a finder’s fee after it introduced him to senior studio executives. Manuel went on to arrange multimillion-dollar loans with Sony and Warner Brothers, according to the complaint.

Turns out Manuel isn’t exactly a hot commodity in Tinseltown. (His IMDb résumé is brief, to say the least.) He needed John Burke, a partner at the firm, to make introductions and get some meetings. Manuel also asked Burke, who leads the firm’s entertainment practice and specializes in media finance, to find a distributor for the film.

When the deals went down, several hundred million dollars in loans were arranged between Manuel, Sony, and Warner Bros. Akin Gump was supposed to get a significant cut, but the firm alleges Manuel bailed on the finders fee. (We reached out to the firm for comment, but have not received a response.)

Sounds like someone should hire Alec Baldwin to visit with Mr. Manuel and give him the Glengarry Glen Ross motivational speech.

“Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.” Yada yada. Manuel, I hate to say it, but you may be in for a world of hurt. Buckle your seat belt.

Akin, Gump Says Movie Producer Owes It [Courthouse News]
Akin Gump v. Mark Manuel, Complaint for Breach of Contract [Los Angeles Superior Court – PDF]

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