Shareholders of an ill-fated Stan Lee venture are seeking more than $750 million in profits from films and other works based on Marvel comic characters such as “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “Iron Man.”
The lawsuit was filed Monday in a Manhattan federal court on behalf of shareholders of Stan Lee Media Inc. Defendants include Lee, his wife, New York-based Marvel Entertainment Inc., and former Marvel chief executive officer Avi Arad.
The suit names four shareholders who live in Florida, California and Canada. Their lawyer, Martin Garbus, said the suit is aimed at reclaiming money for all Stan Lee Media Inc. shareholders.
The lawsuit claims profits from Lee’s comic creations belong to the company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2006. The suit claims Lee, Marvel and others have violated Stan Lee Media’s copyright interests and that the firm is due profits from all properties, including blockbuster films that were made after 1998 and based on Lee’s creations.
The lawsuit’s allegations were immediately rebuffed, with Marvel issuing a statement that said the lawsuit is filled with “ridiculous claims.”
Lee’s attorney, Mark W. Williams, said: “We look forward to a positive resolution for Stan Lee and his family.”
Marvel also claimed the lawsuit features claims that have been pursued in previous cases.
Garbus said Monday’s suit differs in that it names Lee, Arad, who produced several of the blockbuster films featuring Marvel characters, and current Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter.
“It’s a very different lawsuit,” Garbus said. “It’s different money.”
He said he suspects that Lee, who once sued Marvel over profits from his creations, entered into an agreement that deprived Stan Lee Media of the windfall from blockbuster movies such as the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” trilogies.
“He made a deal,” Garbus said of Lee’s confidential settlement that led to his reconciliation with Marvel. “That money should have gone to the corporation.”
Lee helped found Stan Lee Media, an online comic site in the late 1990s, but the company went into bankruptcy in 2001 and several of its officers were arrested and accused of manipulating its stock price.
Lee was never implicated in the scheme, but the company’s meltdown has sparked court actions in New York, Colorado and Los Angeles.
In 2007, Lee sued Stan Lee Media for copyright infringement, cybersquatting, defamation and other claims. In a document filed last year, Lee’s lawyers denied he gave the company copyright interests in characters he created during his Marvel career.