8:45am PT by Eriq Gardner
TMZ Cancels Celebrity Tour Bus Deal Amid Revenue Fight
Since 2010, the TMZ Celebrity Bus Tour has trafficked tourists through the "real Hollywood," promising to dish inside information about the town's celebrities.
One secret that TMZ hasn't obtained? Payment.
In February, the head of legal affairs at the gossip outlet sent its partner, Starline Tours of Hollywood, notice of a termination of their agreement. A letter accused Starline of breaching contract by failing to distribute revenue. On Wednesday, TMZ and its parent company, Warner Bros., followed this up with a lawsuit against Starline, claiming trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising. The bus tour continues at the moment, but TMZ is demanding an injunction against using their marks.
According to the contract between the parties, TMZ and Starline split revenues evenly minus approved costs, which necessitates Starline providing backup documentation in monthly reconciliation reports.
Despite requiring to make payment five days after receiving a reconciliation statement, "Starline missed every payment deadline for the past two years, sometimes by more than four months," states the lawsuit. "Starline did not cure its payment breach for November or December 2015 until February 2016, after TMZ had already terminated the Agreement, and, as of this filing, still has not paid Net Revenues for December 2015, which are nearly one month late."
Starline is also charged with breaching the agreement by not depositing 90 percent of the revenue in the bank account upon collection. According to the lawsuit, "Indeed, in a meeting at TMZ's offices, Starline informed TMZ that it lacked the 'capacity' to segregate the TMZ Bus Tour revenues into the Dedicated Account, and that it was therefore 'impossible' for Starline to timely make payments to TMZ."
According to a recent story in The New Yorker, the celebrity-spotting bus tours are managed by Harvey Levin's chiropractor, Andy Mauer. In 2012, the tour earned an unflattering review by The Hollywood Reporter. "The TMZ brand of humor that is weaved throughout becomes tiresome," THR stated. "For a brand that touts itself as a breaking-news outlet, references to Michael Jackson's death and 'hot' restaurants like Boa Steakhouse felt dated. And while the guide talked about celebrity run-ins, none happened."
So the tour ends? A representative for Starline couldn't be reached for comment.
The last 48 hours has been an interesting one legally for TMZ. On Wednesday, the Warners subsidiary was sued for naming the wrong rapper who severed his penis. On the bright side, TMZ finally got out from a lawsuit accusing it of falsely reporting individuals connected to a prostitution bust on the heels of the 2014 Super Bowl.