Rick Santorum Claims Recently Fired Executives Tried to 'Sabotage' the Film Studio He Runs

Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum
 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rick Santorum has had a rocky first three months on the job as CEO of EchoLight Studios, a faith-based movie studio the former senator was tapped to run in June.

Insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that Santorum butted heads with Bobby Downes and Christopher Morrow, who have identified themselves as co-founders of the studio, so severely that he fired them both about a week ago. Then on Tuesday, EchoLight sued the two former executives claiming they were orchestrating "a campaign of sabotage."

The lawsuit even claims that Morrow threatened to "malign" Santorum in "an upcoming Hollywood Reporter article," according to Courthouse News Service. The Hollywood Reporter is unaware of the alleged effort from Morrow.

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"Bobby Downes and Christopher Morrow have been terminated from EchoLight due to both cause and nonperformance," a spokeswoman for the studio confirmed on Tuesday.

Morrow was chief global strategist before his termination at EchoLight and Downes was president, and they both reported to Santorum, a former Republican presidential candidate who was helping to raise $20 million in investment capital for EchoLight when the studio hired him as CEO.

Insiders said the fundraising process was touch and go for a while, with some prospective investors pulling out and others replacing them, but EchoLight said Tuesday it had gathered the funds it set out to raise, though the spokeswoman declined to specify an exact amount of money.

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"EchoLight Studios is in a positive position and we are growing and expanding every day. We have just closed on our multimillion-dollar film fund and are excited about the future," the spokeswoman said. "With Rick Santorum as CEO, we will announce the hiring of an interim president this week, with more exciting news to follow. We look forward to the red-carpet premieres of The Christmas Candle in Dallas and Orlando on October 21, with the national release in November."

The Christmas Candle, directed by John Stephenson, is about a small English town in 1890 that, as legend has it, is visited by an angel every 25 years. Susan Boyle, the Britain's Got Talent singer who became a YouTube sensation in 2009, makes her film debut in the project.

Some of the dispute stems from a movie in postproduction called Hoovey. Directed by Soul Surfer's Sean McNamara, the film stars Patrick Warburton and tells the true story of Eric "Hoovey" Elliott, a high school basketball player whose brain tumor caused him to have to relearn basic functions, including how to walk and talk. Among other issues, EchoLight says the movie received $1 million in studio money but that Morrow did not turn over financial documents related to the picture.

The lawsuit also says that Downes and Morrow were sabotaging the studio by making negative comments about it in front of partners and licensors.

"At least two other partners/licensors of important EchoLight movie projects have communicated their desire to end their business relationship with EchoLight," the lawsuit states.

Over the past weekend after Downes and Morrow had been fired, according to the complaint, "someone hijacked EchoLight's Facebook account and shut off all other EchoLight administrators of that account. Whoever hijacked the account then inserted a story about defendant Downes that inaccurately described him as EchoLight's 'founder.' Upon information and belief, either defendant Downes or defendant Morrow, or both, were behind this hijacking."

The complaint's assertion that Downes is not a founder is curious, given he is routinely identified as such in news stories and press releases. The release announcing Santorum's appointment as CEO, in fact, calls Downes and Morrow "co-founders" of the studio.

E-mail: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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