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JUL
26
2 YEARS

Beyonce Fights to Withhold Sensitive Documents in Video Game Lawsuit (Exclusive)

Possibly privileged paperwork includes the singer's artist-manager relationship with her father.

Beyonce Knowles

The videogame company suing Beyonce Knowles-Carter for allegedly walking away from a multi-million dollar deal to produce a game is demanding sensitive documents the singer wants kept private.

Plaintiff Gate Five is seeking Beyonce's conversations with others after the videogame contract was terminated as well as additional documents, including a possible audit conducted by Beyonce's law firm on the management company run by her father.

Beyonce's lawyers call it an overbroad "fishing expedition," but Gate Five says the documents could provide evidence of one of its key claims -- not only that the singer illegitimately cancelled her contract at the end of 2010 but also that she may have secretly been working on another videogame deal with another company.

The lawsuit was originally filed in April 2011.

Gate Five claims that on the eve of the previous Christmas, Beyonce "double crossed" it on a "whim" by abandoning development of a motion-sensing dance video game based on her moves that was to be called Starpower: Beyoncé. Gate Five had purportedly spent $6.7 million on the game before the singer demanded more compensation to move forward. Her requests allegedly caused the financier to back out of a $19.2 million financing deal, and Gate Five said it needed to lay off 70 people from its workforce.

Last April, a judge denied Beyonce's motion for summary judgment. "I'm surprised this is so meritless," said the judge in reference to the singer's attempts to escape the case.

In June, Beyonce filed an appeal of the decision. Her position is that the trial court judge erred by ruling that she had ineffectively terminated the agreement with Gate Five. She believes it's clear that she was able to cancel the contract because Gate Five hadn't obtained $5 million to fund the video game's development, per the conditions of the deal.

The appeal is pending. Meanwhile, discovery continues at the trial court.

Gate Five is trying to compel production of documents from 2011 after the deal for Starpower went sour.

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In a memorandum filed on Tuesday, Gate Five's lawyers say that although the documents were created after December 2010, they are relevant to the dispute and that Beyonce's refusal to turn them over "may suggest a deliberate effort to conceal damaging documents."

One of the documents that Gate Five wants is a January 2011 email entitled "EA Video Game" and another from April 2011 is entitled "Ubisoft/Video Game Draft for approval," which the plaintiffs say, "suggest that she may have participated in another video game project in breach of the Agreement and that she may have terminated the Agreement not out of her stated concern about financing, but because she wanted to drop Gate Five for another video game company."

Gate Five is also attempting to pursue documents describing Beyonce conversations with third parties, including Music World Artist Management, run by Beyonce's father Mathew Knowles, who used to be her manager, and a man named Desiree Perez, who is said to be an employee at the New York's 40/40 club, owned by the singer's husband Jay-Z.

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According to the court documents, Beyonce is attempting to withhold these documents on the basis of attorney-client priviledge, saying that several third party individuals were "agents" necessary to facilitate communications between the singer and her law firm. Her attorneys describe Gate Five's actions as a "fishing expedition...intended to harass" Beyonce.

The ugliness of the dispute is evidenced by e-mails exchanged by the parties in the past few months.

For instance, on the subject of Music World, Beyonce's camp insisted in one e-mail last May that the agency no longer represents the singer. Gate Five's attorneys responded that it wants to see the documents to see "whether that was Music World's understanding."

Gate Five is also pushing for any investigative documents including possible audit conducted by Beyonce's law firm Reed Smith on Music World over the agency's representation of the singer. Attorneys for Gate Five argue that it could shed light on her "true motivation for terminating the agreement" and have also pointed to correspondence and legal memos suggesting a developing legal dispute between Beyonce and her father over authority to act as the singer's authorized representative.

Beyonce attorneys write that any requests for documents tied to Music World are "vague, overbroad, and entirely irrelevant to any issues in this case."

The question of what documents need to be turned over is now in the judge's hands.

We've contacted Beyonce's lawyers and if they have anything to add, we'll update.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner