In February 1994, ice skater Oksana Baiul won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Her victory against U.S. skater Nancy Kerrigan was one of the most-watched sporting events in TV history.
Now, the Ukrainian champion alleges in a new lawsuit against the William Morris Endeavor talent agency that she has been taken advantage of — starting at the age of 16, when, not understanding English, she experienced her Olympic success.
On Monday, Baiul filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court that claims she gave the defendants the right to represent her when other talent agents were hounding her, and that since then, WME has collected money on her behalf and refused to remit what she is owed.
According to the complaint, she signed agreements in May 1994 that gave her agents the exclusive right to represent her in “all fields and media, throughout the world” and engaged them as agents for TV and film work.
Baiul says that in August 2011, she hired Carlo Farina to be her new personal manager. Thereafter, Farina purportedly discovered discrepancies in accounting and collected $9.5 million on his client’s behalf.
But the skating great says there’s more money she’s still owed.
According to the lawsuit, “Not until November 19, 2011, did Baiul discover, through investigations by her personal manager, Farina, that though Defendants undertook the duty to collect and in fact collected almost US $9.5 million on Baiul’s behalf, Defendants failed to collect additional sums to which Baiul was contractually entitled, failed to remit payment of the additional sums to Baiul and/or took the payments owing to Baiul and wrongful transferred them to OCL, UFG, and their agents.”
The latter is in reference to the Olympic Champions Ltd. and the Ukrainian Financial Group, which were also contracted in 1994 to advise and represent her on skating tours, merchandising and other entertainment endeavors.
Baiul identifies several forms of missing payments from her career, including at least $150,000 from a jewelry deal, at least $100,000 as an advance on a greeting card and stationery deal, earnings and royalties from film and TV specials including Nutcracker on Ice and Wizard of Oz on Ice, book earnings, infomercial royalties and additional residuals.
The plaintiff says that WME permitted money owed to Baiul to be sent to her former Ukrainian reps, including $200,000 for a settlement in a dispute concerning UFG and OCL.
Baiul is now demanding at least $1 million in compensatory damages and more in punitive damages for causes of action that include breach of written contract, breach of fiduciary duty, concealment, intentional misrepresentation, false promise, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference and conversion.
The misrepresentation charge could be something to watch. According to the complaint, the agents represented to her that she “could enter into valid contracts as a minor without a legal guardian.”
WME declined comment.
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