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The trail from a libel lawsuit filed Thursday in London against four British news outlets — including the Daily Express and WENN — leads back to Hollywood, where American investor Omar Amanat has been butting heads with Summit Entertainment for more than a year, a fight that he claims has damaged his good name.
Amanat, a 38-year-old multimillionaire based in New Jersey, was an investor in the fund that provided key backing four years ago for the studio behind the wildly successful Twilight movies. According to documents filed with the suit, entities affiliated with Amanat remain shareholders in privately held Summit.
But the studio distanced itself from Amanat last fall, denying he has a role in the company today.
In November, a cease and desist letter was sent to Amanat and leaked to the blog Deadline.com, which led to news stories in the U.K. that painted Amanat as an “impostor” who has misrepresented his affiliation with Summit. The suit says those stories were false and resulted in significant damage to his businesses.
One lost opportunity, according to the suit, was a potential deal to provide electronic technology for the TV show The X Factor, an arrangement that allegedly was being negotiated with WME agent Ari Emanuel, British entrepreneur Philip Green and others. The deal allegedly fell apart after the publication of Summit’s letter, which claimed that Amanat was falsely associating himself with the studio. Amanat alleges his minimum loss on that deal alone was about $4 million.
In December, in answer to a strongly worded letter from Amanat’s attorney, Summit co-chairs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger sent him a letter acknowledging that he was a former board member of the company and that he was authorized to hold a private screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon and attend a charity party at which stars of the film were present. That letter is now being included as part of the U.K. suit, according to an Amanat representative.
Amanat claims various publications libeled him and have refused to run corrections. Besides Express Newspapers and WENN, Amanat’s suit targets Northern & Shell (parent of OK! Magazine and others) and Everything Everywhere Ltd. (which operates a popular website called Orange). Along with damages for libel, Amanat is seeking an injunction to restrain those outlets from republishing any of the information he says was damaging to him.
Amanat has not sued Deadline.com or its owner, Mail.com Media Corp. An Amanat rep would not comment on why he hasn’t gone after the blog except to say that Amanat is suing in the U.K. first and keeping his options open.
As for Summit, Amanat says in the suit that he continues to hold power in an indirect but real way. He claims he chooses a member of Summit’s board of directors who answers to him and who is part of a voting bloc that acts in unison and controls half the votes on the board. “He can block substantially all material actions or votes with respect to Summit simply by withholding his written consent,” according to the suit filed in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division.
A representative for Summit declined to comment on the allegations.
Another letter that will be included with the suit, written in January by Suhail Rizvi of Rizvi Traverse (which is part of the group that invested in Summit), says Amanat had 20% of the equity in the group that owns about half of Summit. “You continue to retain substantial indirect economic interests in Summit,” Rizvi wrote in the letter.
Amanat, born in New York, began his career on Wall Street and in his 20s co-founded CyberTrader, which provided software for stock traders. It was acquired by Charles Schwab in 2000 for $488 million. He then went on to found Tradescape Corp., which was sold to eTrade for $280 million in 2002.
Amanat was a co-founder of Groundswell Prods. in 2006 and subsequently sold his stake. He is an executive producer on such movies as The Visitor, Smart People and the documentary Dafur Now.
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