Halting two trials in their tracks, a federal judge Wednesday granted motions that will effectively put David Bergstein’s troubled indie distribs ThinkFilm and Capitol Films Development into bankruptcy.
The ruling by Judge Barry Russell in a U.S. federal court in Los Angeles came after lawyers for both film companies failed to oppose the motion for summary judgment which called for Wednesday’s decision. Had he not taken the action, both cases would have proceeded to trial.
“The debtors in this case have been amazing at hiding the ball,” Russell said in delivering his ruling. Russell had grown increasingly frustrated with Bergstein and his reps for not being forthcoming with information relating to the cases.
The ruling comes as a victory to the creditors in the cases, many of whom hope to retrieve assets or money they claim to be ensnared in Capitol and Think’s legal woes.
“It’s been an intense battle because of the tactics of the other side,” said lead creditor David Molner of Screen Capital Intl., who is also a party in legal actions targeting a trio of other Bergstein companies. “I would say, two down, three to go.”
Creditors are trying to force Bergstein companies R2D2, CT-1 Holdings and CapCo into bankruptcy.
Russell is likely to appoint temporary trustee Ronald Durkin as the permanent trustee in the ThinkFilm and Capitol cases. Durkin would then begin to comb through both companies’ assets to determine how best to pay creditors what they are owed.
On Wednesday, the judge also denied a motion for creditor Aramid Entertainment to put up a $25 million bond. Had Russell not moved the companies toward bankruptcy, lawyers for them say that legal fees and damages would have warranted the coin. Those damages include losses for Pangea Media Group, a Bergstein holding company previously believed not to be involved with the bankruptcy.
“It can no longer sell films,” R2D2 attorney Lucia Coyoca said regarding Pangea. But Russell disagreed. “I don’t think there’s any evidence of damages,” he said before denying the bond.
The debtors have recently claimed a possible R2D2 ownership interest in Pangea. Attorneys for Durkin, however, say this contradicts earlier statements from Bergstein that Pangea had no affiliation with the troubled companies.
This appeared to irritate attorney David Neale, who represents the lead creditor in the case. “I apologize if I seem frustrated, your honor, but frankly I am,” said Neale. “We’ve spent six months chasing these people. This entire web of companies, sooner or later, is going to come crashing down.”