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Trio claims ownership rights; tries to block sale

Judge to rule this week on sale freeze

An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to decide this week whether to issue a restraining order to block the sale of f/x house Manex Entertainment (“The Matrix”) by managing director Robert Bobo.

Bobo appeared before Superior Court Judge James Richter Friday with plaintiffs Michael Van Himbergen, Roger Davis and Dr. Steven Gillam, who claim they own part of Manex and have filed letters and agreements attempting to prove so.

In addition to various fraud and forgery charges, the lawsuit claims Bobo is attempting to sell Manex for about $20 million in an attempt to defraud Davis, Van Himbergen and Gillam of their ownership rights.

Judge Richter will rule as early as today on whether or not to freeze any transfer of ownership of the company.

Manex in February completed two multimillion dollar rounds of funding from undisclosed outside partners — the first time it has gone outside of its walls for financing as it steps into new arenas including its own pic production and Internet development (Daily Variety, Feb. 14).

Financially strapped indie production company Cinergi Pictures sold Mass.Illusions to Manex in 1997, after asking Van Himbergen and Davis to find investors.

At the time, Mass.Illusions had a $7.5 million contract to produce the f/x for “What Dreams May Come” and had created test shots for “The Matrix.”

Van Himbergen at the time arranged to hand the reins over to Bobo and George Q. Vaile of the Manex Group of Ohio in exchange for Manex assuming $1 million in Mass.Illusions debt. Van Himbergen was promised part ownership of up to 30%, while Davis was promised 10%, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit, claims Gillam was promised 50%.

Bobo took the reins of Manex from Vaile in 1997 and would later lower Gillam’s stake in the company to 15% in exchange for majority ownership of Manex’s intellectual property rights, including technology created for pics such as Bullet Time effects for “The Matrix,” according to court documents. Plaintiffs estimate Manex has generated $50 million from its technology, of which Gillam has received nothing.

Davis quit Manex in 1997, Van Himbergen in 1998.

Manex is working on “Mission: Impossible 2,” and created shots for “Romeo Must Die.”

The lawsuit against Bobo was filed in Alameda County Superior Court on March 17.

Paul Clifford of Strauss Nickerson said they are “vigorously defending Bobo and the companies and will comment further at an appropriate time.”

The law firm of Cheasty & Cheasty is repping Van Himbergen, Davis and Gillam.

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