6:26pm PT by Ashley Cullins
'Silence' Producer Accused of Inflating the Value of Assets in Bankruptcy Dispute
Cecchi Gori Pictures is inflating the value of assets, including Martin Scorsese's Silence, in an adversarial proceeding arising from its bankruptcy, according to a motion filed Monday in California federal court.
CG declared bankruptcy in December, and its CEO Andrew De Camara promised legal action against those who "took advantage of the power vacuum" that was created when founder Vittorio Cecchi Gori was indicted in Italy for financial crimes. In February, a suit was filed against G&G Productions, claiming rights CG held were fraudulently transferred to G&G. CG was granted a temporary restraining order and is seeking an injunction in an effort to recover the assets.
Now, G&G is firing back. In a Monday court filing, G&G questions the participation in the proceedings of Niels Juul, the former head of the company, describing him as "the one party with the least credibility in relation to the CG Companies."
"Plaintiffs depict Juul as the innocent 'Hollywood Insider' who was left in the dark about matters of the Debtors and bullied by the henchmen of a sort of Italian crime boss, Cecchi Gori," writes attorney Brian Davidoff. "Though this story makes for an interesting movie script, Juul is well aware that — much like any Hollywood drama — the script strays far from the truth."
G&G claims that Juul was removed as chief executive, in part, because he was being reimbursed for significant expenses without authorization. It was later discovered, according to the filing, that he had also been making unauthorized sweetheart deals for himself — including one that gave him the right to be a producer of Michael Mann’s Enzo Ferrari biopic. Juul was fired in 2015 and refused to turn over the company's financial books and records, so CG hired an auditor. According to the filing, more than a million dollars had been transferred from CG to Juul or his company, Nofatego LLC.
Juul's credibility is paramount, G&G claims, because he is the sole source used to put a nearly $10 million value on assets at issue in the lawsuit.
“Plaintiffs’ only evidence offered to support the Plaintiffs’ purported value of the scripts is a declaration from Juul,” writes Davidoff. “Not only is Juul’s credibility in question but much of his declaration is patently inadmissible. … Juul’s purported script values lack any evidentiary foundation, constitute an improper summary, constitute hearsay, and are improper speculative lay opinions.”
One of the assets at issue is Martin Scorsese's Silence — which, according to the filing, is a decades-old headache that has yet to pay off. It all started in 1998, when CG first optioned the project and lined up Scorsese to direct and produce. After he repeatedly delayed the project to work on The Departed, Shutter Island and Hugo, CG sued. They reached a settlement in 2014 and CG was reimbursed nearly a million dollars.
"The movie has not (yet) proved successful, and box office sales have equaled less than half of the approximately $40 million budget," writes Davidoff. "It took sixteen years for the CG Companies to be reimbursed its costs related to this script, and it appears dubious that there will ever be a profit."
A hearing is currently set for March 6.