Failure hits biz in paycheck

Axium Intl., the entertainment industry’s third-largest provider of payroll and accounting services, has closed unexpectedly and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Axium shuttered operations Tuesday, a day after its lenders froze the company’s bank accounts. Immediate impact was unclear, but some of the frozen funds included paychecks for film projects.

Director Charlie Matthau told Daily Variety that much of the money he was owed on the recently completed indie drama “Baby O” was frozen Tuesday.

“I was supposed to go pick up a $75,000 check from the DGA, until they told me there was this problem, that Axium had gone out of business and all the accounts were frozen, ” said the helmer, son of the late Walter Matthau. “I feel totally violated, and I’m hoping that the Guild will be able to help me.”

Matthau said Axium notified him recently that the money had been wired into his account.

“In fact, they’d done no such thing, and they were hiding this 400-pound gorilla of bankruptcy,” he added. “Because of that memo, I hope that the City Attorney or District Attorney looks into this. It has affected me and likely a whole lot of other people.”

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing is designed to govern the liquidation of company assets. Axium reps were not available for comment Tuesday, and the headquarters offices on Wilshire Boulevard were shuttered.

Axium president Ruben Rodriguez had left the firm. Axium employees were told Monday not to come to work until further notice, and if in contact with their clients, to tell them that Axium could no longer process their business.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG’s deputy national exec director and general counsel, said in a statement, “Screen Actors Guild is investigating the situation and will take every action possible to protect the interests of our members. While we are closely following the status of Axium, it is important to bear in mind that payment to talent is ultimately the responsibility of the employers and not the payroll companies they choose to engage.”

Axium’s recent work included providing the payroll services for “Grace Is Gone,” “The Savages,” “Feast of Love” and “Babel.”

A veteran accountant at a production company who regularly used Axium for projects said he was completely stunned by the bankruptcy.

“I never saw this coming or imagined that this could happen,” the exec said. “Axium had a terrific budget system, and software that allowed you access to records for all of the productions you did over the past several years. If that software is frozen, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)

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