May 19, 2011 12:03pm PT by Matthew Belloni
'Mannix' Star Mike Connors Sues CBS, Paramount for Unpaid Profits (Exclusive)
Mike Connors, star of the classic 1960’s detective series Mannix, has sued Paramount and CBS Television Studios claiming he has never been paid royalties on the show despite being owed millions of dollars.
Connors, 85, filed the suit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by THR, a 1966 contract grants him 10% of “net profits” from the show and 10% of “gross proceeds” from the use of Connors’ name and likeness (subject to a 50% fee). Subsequent amendments increased his share of “net profits” to 20% for the fifth through eighth seasons of the hit drama, according to the suit.
Mannix, originally produced by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu Prods, ran from 1967-75 on CBS and has been syndicated worldwide. Connors starred as tough-as-nails private eye Joe Mannix, a role that earned him four Emmy nominations.
Connors now claims Paramount/CBS has sent him only sporadic accounting statements saying that no money is owed. Instead, the lawsuit says the studio claims losses associated with the show have increased as it has aged, growing from $5.1 million in 1975 to more than $9 million today. “Thus, over the course of 35 years, the show has nearly doubled its net loss even though the show was no longer in production and has continuously brought in significant revenue from syndication and other revenue-generating sources,” according to the suit. “During the same period of time, the cumulative interest charged by Defendants ballooned from nearly $2,000,000 to over $14,000,000.”
Connors is seeking unspecified damages, but, given the long life of the show, the total allegedly owed would run well into the millions. The suit is seeking a full accounting from CBS/Paramount.
“Notwithstanding all of the hard work, time and effort put into the series, Mr. Connors has never received any profits on Mannix in the ordinary course of participation accounting,” the complaint states. “Indeed, even as the series continues to generate revenue to this day from exploitation and DVD sales, it sinks deeper and deeper into debt.”
The lawsuit also accuses Paramount of fraud when it drafted the contract. “Paramount’s net profits definition and accounting methods were intentionally constructed in a manner such that a net profits participant, such as Mr. Connors, would never receive any contingent compensation,” the lawsuit alleges.
We've reached out to CBS/Paramount for comment and will update with a response. UPDATE: A CBS spokesperson sends us this statement: "This lawsuit is a mystery worthy of Mannix's detective skills. Before the case was filed, we had not heard from Mr. Connors or his lawyers, and we had not been made aware of any dispute. We will honor Mr. Connors' contract and fulfill all of our obligations."
The suit, filed by Neville Johnson, Douglas Johnson and James Ryan of Beverly Hills’ Johnson and Johnson firm, alleges causes of action for breach of contract, decalartory relief, accounting, unjust enrichment, money due on an open book account, conversion, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unfair business practices.