Suit said Nunnari diverted money from film projects

Producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori has been awarded more than $15 million in his suit alleging that his one-time close associate Gianni Nunnari diverted money from film projects to his own company.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue ordered that a trust be set up to award Cecchi Gori income and expenses from films that Nunnari and his company, Hollywood Gang Prods., were to receive on projects including “300,” “Everybody’s Fine,” “The Departed,” “Shutter Island” and “Hugo Cabret.” She ruled that Cecchi Gori owned the rights to “Silence,” to be directed by Martin Scorsese, and that attorneys’ fees and other costs also can be recovered.

Hogue’s 50-page decision, following a bench trial, sets out a narrative in which Cecchi Gori’s father, Mario, a pioneer in the Italian film business, made a promise to Nunnari’s father to take his son under his wing and employ him at his various companies. Through the years, the younger Cecchi Gori established a close bond with Nunnari, trusting him enough to oversee his company’s Los Angeles office and rarely questioning expenses. But Nunnari, Hogue wrote, felt undercompensated, and starting with the movie “Seven” took steps to work as a producer for hire. Although Cecci Gori was aware of the “Seven” assignment, Hogue wrote that Nunnari’s outside work became so extensive as to become a “direct conflict of interest” as he obtained rights to material, commissioned scripts, and attached directing and acting telent to projects, and did not disclose his role as a “dual agent.”

In an unannounced visit in 2006, Cecchi Gori discovered that Nunnari was using the Los Angeles office to operate his own company, and shut the office down in 2008, Hogue wrote.

Nunnari had argued that he was free to act in such a capacity on “300” and other projects because Cecchi Gori was uninterested in such films, at one point wishing him “good luck” in respect to the Frank Miller graphic novel.

Nunnari also pointed to employment agreements in which he was allowed to work as a “non-exclusive” producer for hire and engage in independent production, but Hogue found that such contract language did not waive his fiduciary duties in his work for Cecchi Gori.

Niels Juul, who was brought in to restructure Cecchi Gori Pictures in 2009, said in a statement that, “There are other aspects of this case, other than civil, that we could explore, but we now prefer to shift our energy to more positive matters.”

A spokesman for Nunnari and his legal team said in a statement, “We are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision and intend to appeal.”

Cecchi Gori was represented by Charles J. Harder and Marc E. Rohatiner of Wolf Rifkin.

Nunnari was represented by Timothy J. Gorry of Eisner, Frank & Kahan.

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