Kevin Costner Files $15M Suit Against Former Business Partner

Kevin Costner - Getty - H 2019
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Kevin Costner is suing former business partner Jim Wilson for $15 million for allegedly refusing to sign over his rights in a company the Yellowstone star is trying to wind down.

Costner estimates Wilson has earned more than $35 million over the years from their relationship, which dates back to a 1983 casting call that resulted in the actor's first lead role. Costner brought Wilson on as a producer for Dances With Wolves (1990), which earned them an Oscar for best picture. The next year, Costner hired Wilson as executive vp of TIG and helped bring him on as a producer for films including The Bodyguard, Wyatt Earp, The Postman and Message in a Bottle.

The dispute centers on a company called Good Ones Productions that Costner formed back in 1992. TIG had a first-look deal with Warner Bros., and Costner's lawyers helped him form another entity that would act as a holding company for projects outside of the Warners deal and be a Writers Guild signatory. TIG funded all of Good Ones' operations through loans.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in L.A. County Superior Court, Costner has been the sole director and officer of the company since 2015 and Wilson hasn't had any involvement with Good Ones since at least 2004. (Though a Nov. 11, 2020 filing with the California Secretary of State’s Office lists Wilson as the sole director and officer.) This past summer, Costner decided to wind down Good Ones and in July, Costner's lawyers sent Wilson a form letter seeking to transfer his bare legal ownership of Good Ones' stock to Costner.

"[G]iven that Costner and Wilson had not done business together for more than 12 years, and Wilson was no longer an officer of TIG, it made no sense for Wilson to hold bare legal title GOP stock," writes attorney Howard Kaplan in the complaint. "[Wilson] indicated he was not interested in producing any of the projects, not interested in any contingent compensation for any of the projects and did not want anything to do with Costner with respect to these projects. However, he refused to sign the agreement."

According to the complaint, during a follow up conversation with Costner's producing partner Rod Lake, Wilson "made derogatory comments about Costner and demanded $500,000" to sign.

Costner is also suing attorney Zeke Lopez, who worked on a team handing Costner's legal matters for several years before becoming Wilson's personal attorney, for allegedly taking Good Ones-related documents with him without Costner's consent when he exited his firm.

Lopez, who's representing Wilson in this dispute, told Costner he didn't have the files. But, according to the complaint, his former firm Greenberg Traurig kept detailed records and has evidence it sent him the documents in 2005.

Costner is suing Wilson for conversion, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. He's suing Lopez for breach of fiduciary duty and conversion, and is also seeking the return of a $1 million loan to Good Ones Productions, plus interest.

Lopez has not yet responded to a request for comment.