CBS Rips "Sham" Agency in Suit Over 'MacGyver' Profits

MacGyver S01E01 Still - Publicity - H 2016
Annette Brown/CBS

MacGyver S01E01 Still - Publicity - H 2016

CBS is taking aim at a company claiming to be due a cut of profits from the 2016 MacGyver series — effectively arguing Paramount was tricked for years into paying commissions to a business that was masquerading as one that had actually dissolved.

It all stems from an agreement among actor-producer Henry Winkler, director-producer John Rich, Paramount and Major Talent Agency, which preceded the original MacGuyver series.

Hanzer Holdings and Arlita, who claim to be successors in interest to MTA, in December 2018 sued CBS for breach of contract. They claim MTA's work as a packaging agent in connection with the original MacGyver entitled it to a cut of the series' 2016 reboot. The contract only mentions spin-offs, but Hanzer and Alita argue back then it was understood to mean anything that derives from a series, and now includes reboots, revivals, remakes, etc.

They moved for summary judgment, and in its opposition CBS argues the suit is fatally flawed and the MTA they claim to be connected to is a sham.

"While MTA had a contractual relationship with Paramount prior to that time, its rights terminated by late 1985 when it dissolved and stopped performing," states the filing. "But, as discovery has revealed, Richard Weston (a former employee of MTA, and now the sole owner of plaintiff Arlita) and Hanzer Holdings saw an opportunity to hide the truth from Paramount – that MTA was gone, could not perform, and was no longer entitled to any ongoing agency commissions from MacGyver and MTA’s talent clients. So they pulled a fast one. They covertly chose to have another company, Amivida Company (“Amivida”), quickly become a talent agency and start using MTA’s name, logo and business address in connection with the MacGyver series. While Amivida never had any contractual right to work on MacGyver, by masquerading as MTA, Paramount would be none the wiser."

CBS says "Sham MTA" tricked Paramount for years — but, even if it had been legit, remakes are not spinoffs and the contract required providing talent agency services in order to receive payment.

"Neither Plaintiff is a licensed talent agency, has any talent clients to provide to a series, or is legally permitted to perform talent agency services of any kind," states the filing, which again emphasizes that the new MacGyver wasn't a spinoff. "Spinoffs and remakes are two separate concepts – now and back in the 1980s. ... Even if Plaintiffs could prove they are the successors in interest to MTA’s rights and obligations (they cannot), and that the Remake is a spinoff (it is not) such that the Winkler-Rich Agreement applies (it does not), they still cannot recover because they cannot perform the agency services required under their claimed contract (whatever the version)."

A hearing is currently set for April 15.