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Update Feb. 8, 2016: The litigation was settled “amicably” as of January 2016, and both parties declined further comment.
For more than five years, Gary Simson has been attempting to make a documentary about Waddy Wachtel, a noted session musician who has worked with such musical stars as Keith Richards, Roger Daltry and Robert Plant. In July, 2013, Simson raised money on Kickstarter for the film, King of the Sidemen, and the project was subsequently featured in Rolling Stone magazine. But according to a $10 million lawsuit filed on Monday, Simson was already obligated to make a Wachtel documentary with other investors.
Thomas Raboin says he was introduced to Simson in 2008. At the time, the defendant appears to have had a good career in television, including producing many celebrity biographies. According to Raboin’s lawsuit, Simson represented that he would interview many high-profile musicians like Joe Walsh, Iggy Pop and James Taylor, while Raboin explained that the greater the number of celebrity interviews, the easier it would be to raise investment funds.
Some of the interviews had already been completed. The others would come later.
The two are said to have worked on financial estimates and budgets, including $240,000 to obtain rights for 40 songs, and in 2008, the parties allegedly outlined their joint business plan for prospective investors in the project. The two also entered into a written operating agreement for They Could Be Heroes, LLC.
Over the next few years, both sides appear to have come up short of goals. Raboin wanted to raise $1 million, but was only to raise half that amount. Meanwhile, Simson got some high-profile musicians like Jackson Browne and Mick Fleetwood interviewed, though the complaint implies that he didn’t deliver all the musicians who might have come forward to talk about Wachtel, who among other things, co-wrote Warren Zevon‘s “Werewolves of London.”
The lawsuit says that by 2010, Simson’s interest in the project was “flagging” and how he expressed that he no longer wanted to be responsible for the film’s sale and distribution. He only wanted to produce and direct.
Progress was made on the film nonetheless, according to the suit: Some song rights were cleared. Stevie Nicks was interviewed. Film expenditures increased. A fifth round of investment funding was solicited.
In 2012, the parties were still negotiating the terms of a producer/director agreement, and states the lawsuit, “Raboin repeatedly explained to Simson that TCBH simply could not afford to pay Defendant Simson his demanded $93,000 fee and cover other production expenses. During these negotiations, Simson repeatedly proposed that he personally take over the entire Film project from Plaintiffs including, but not limited to, the Film’s ownership, distribution, and marketing efforts, which offers Plaintiff Raboin politely declined.”
Simson allegedly then resigned, accused Raboin of financial mismanagement and cut all ties to the film project.
Now Raboin and the other investors are going to court against Simson over film footage with claims of a breach of contract, fraud, conversion, tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty. The plaintiff is represented by a host of attorneys including Keith Fink, Henry Gradstein and Olaf Muller.
Simson, who successfully raised funds solicited on Kickstarter from 295 backers, couldn’t be reached for comment.
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