5:51pm PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
'Real Housewives' Creator, Bravo Hit With $5 Million Fraud Lawsuit
The latest drama from The Real Housewives of Orange County is a lawsuit from two of its producers, who allege they co-created the long-running series and were then excluded from its profits.
In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, Patrick Moses and Kevin Kaufman claim that the credited creator of the series, Scott Dunlop, developed and sold the series with them, then conspired with the show's network, Bravo, to remove them from Housewives' production and take it over for himself. Their complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court, claims $5 million in damages.
Moses and Kaufman say it was they who had the idea for a reality TV program based on a gated community in Orange County, California. Kaufman was a personal friend of Dunlop's, and when he visited the gated Orange County neighborhood of Coto de Caza where Dunlop lived, Dunlop had already started thinking about the neighborhood's entertainment potential. His idea was "a satirical community-theatre type program," however, and Kaufman and Moses — a TV producer who worked with Kaufman's company Kaufman Films — had the idea of a reality show, the complaint states.
They formed a production agreement that stipulated they split "all fees, profits and revenues equally ... on a 1/3 basis," Kaufman and Moses allege. In 2005, they sold the show to Bravo and set up a production company, Ventana, and in 2006 The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered. It was shortly afterward that Dunlop's efforts to exclude his partners began, they claim.
He met with Bravo without his producing partners, and following the meeting he told them that the channel had decided to produce Real Housewives without Ventana. "It is now clear that Bravo and Dunlop were lying to them in order to conceal the fact that it was none other than Dunlop himself who was replacing Ventana as producer," the complaint alleges.
It was Bravo's idea, the complaint states, because without Ventana the network would be free to produce spinoffs of the series like The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and The Real Housewives of New York City with inexpensive production companies in each series' respective city. It meant Dunlop would receive the millions of dollars in producers' fees and other compensation that Ventana would have as the series became highly successful, the complaint claims.
Then, Dunlop allegedly made two moves to separate his former partners from Real Housewives and shield himself and Bravo from legal action. He tried in 2007 to convince Kaufman and Moses to relinquish their interests in Ventana and release all legal claims against him, telling them they wouldn't earn any profit from the venture or the Real Housewives franchise, they allege. Then, in 2009, he ended Ventana's contract with Bravo and released its claims against the network despite not having the authority to act for the company, the plaintiffs claim.
They are suing for fraud, civil conspiracy and breaches of fiduciary duty and contract. They're represented by Johnson Gallagher Magliery's John Magliery.
Bravo and representatives for Dunlop have not responded to requests for comment.