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OCT
11
2 YEARS

Mogul Ted Field's Lawsuit Over Film Company Won't Go to Arbitration

The entertainment veteran is seeking punitive damages after allegedly being duped by several individuals claiming to be film finance experts.

Ted Field
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Movie mogul Ted Field has won a round in his war against the individuals he accuses of hijacking his film company, Radar Pictures. A Los Angeles judge has determined he won't have to pursue his claims in arbitration.

Last November, Field, who co-founded Interscope Records and has produced more than 60 films including The Last Samurai and Pitch Black, filed a lawsuit that detailed all sorts of outrageous details about Timothy Batchelor, Shawn Beswick and Patrick Panzerella.

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According to the claims, Field met Batchelor, who held himself out to be a film finance pro who could secure money through a matrix of multimillion-dollar funds. Bachelor is then said to have retained the "sophisticated financial expertise" of Convergence Media, which Field believed to be a front to cover the legal trouble of the defendants.

After being paid tens of thousands of dollars in consultancy fees, Batchelor, Beswick and Panzerella allegedly "conspired to produce fraudulent minutes from a meeting of the Board of Directors" at Radar in September 2011, and used those minutes to issue themselves an 80 percent stake in the company's outstanding shares.

Eventually, Radar filed for voluntary bankruptcy protection over Fields' objection. Twice. Fields got the bankruptcy petition dismissed, but as punishment for an attempt to oust him from the board and business partners who allegedly backed out of deals, Fields brought a $10 million lawsuit demanding punitive damages.

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In court, the defendants attempted to escape the public glare of open-court litigation. They brought a motion to compel arbitration, pointing to an executive producer agreement and an operations consultant services agreement between Radar and Convergence.

But at a hearing last week, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Ernest Hiroshige denied the motion.

Fields signed the agreement as an agent for Radar, but the judge says that the defendants have failed to show how the mogul's claims rely on the contract.

"Field states causes of action for abuse of process, promissory fraud, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief against Defendants," the judge wrote in a tentative order before the hearing. "Although these causes of action relate to the contracts at issue, they do not rely on them. For instance, in alleging that Defendants filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions, Field is not seeking to enforce a term of the contracts or recover for breach of the contracts."

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Judge Hiroshige also gives other grounds for denying the arbitration.

This case involves all sorts of sordid allegations. For instance, soon after the defendants put Radar into bankruptcy, co-defendant Donald Ashlock purportedly claimed to be Radar's new president. But he had to take Radar by force, according to the complaint, showing up at the office with a "hired thug" alongside him, claiming to be the "debtor-in-posession" of Radar Pictures. The police were contacted, and Ashlock is said to have "retreated."

No surprise with that so many moving parts, the litigation has become expensive.

According to the judge's ruling, Field has already spent "well over one hundred thousand dollars in fees and costs" since filing the lawsuit. That's important because the defendants didn't file their motion to compel arbitration until July, after two demurrers and discussions regarding discovery.

The judge says there is evidence that the "delay has prejudiced Plaintiffs," including Radar Pictures.

As it stands, the case is scheduled for a jury trial next June.

Field is being represented by Jonathan Freund.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner