Adam Fields claims that Ryan Kavanaugh fraudulently induced him to take a job as co-president of Relativity Media, in a lawsuit that charges the industry veteran was lied to, ostracized and even physically threatened during his short tenure at the crippled film company.
Fields’ suit against Kavanaugh charges that Relativity “operated closer to the cantina scene in Star Wars than a normal production company,” and that Kavanaugh “grossly exaggerated and misrepresented Relativity’s financial outlook and its ability to produce films.”
The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last April, but has struggled to raise capital and to produce or release films. Mostly employees were furloughed over the holidays and not brought back after the New Year. Kavanaugh and Dana Brunetti, who he hired to oversee the film operation, have both reportedly stepped away from their executive positions at the Beverly Hills-based company.
Fields produced films like “Sixteen Candles,” “Breakfast Club,” “Limitless” and “The Wedding Ringer,” over a three-decade career in Hollywood. He says Kavanaugh approached him in 2015 to help run the company, once it emerged from bankruptcy.
But Kavanaugh later began bargaining to try to get Brunetti and his longtime producing partner, actor Kevin Spacey, to sign on as top executives at Relativity. Once Kavanaugh got Brunetti to join the company (Spacey demurred, saying he was too busy), the CEO acted “like the boy who had found a prettier girl,” the lawsuit contends. “Fields became disposable in Kavanaugh’s mind, and Kavanaugh and other Relativity executives began concocting reasons to fire him while at the same time creating a hostile work environment in hopes that Fields would resign on his own,” the lawsuit says.
Among the signs that Relativity did not have nearly enough cash to make and release movies: The company invested in a “big digital initiative,” which turned out to be a pornography website, the lawsuit alleges. Fields said he found out about the site, which is not identified in the lawsuit, when “he saw a group of ‘models’ show up at Relativity’s offices for a meeting with Brunetti for what he later learned was a photo shoot.”
Variety previously reported that a raunchy, flesh-peddling website, Egotastic.com, had been operating out of Relativity’s offices in recent months.
Fields’ suit depicts Kavanaugh, a 41-year-old entrepreneur, as a spendthrift who lavished himself with “helicopters, private jets, parties and extravagant gifts for starlet girlfriends.” In the process, the Relativity CEO drove his company “off a financial cliff, racking up more than a billion dollars in liabilities.”
Fields said he got a four-year contract with the company, with total compensation worth more than $10 million. But company executives later told Fields he was being paid too much and, once Brunetti came on board at the start of 2016, began making his life there uncomfortable.
Fields alleges that he was frozen out by Kavanaugh, kept out of important meetings and banished to a far corner of Relativity’s offices, away from other executives he was supposed to be working with. The veteran executive charges that he was brought on as “a back stop who [Kavanaugh] needed in the short term because of the mass exodus of Relativity’s production executives, but would dispose of once the studio’s productions were under control and another, higher-profile executive could be brought in as Relativity’s president.”
After Brunetti arrived, the two men had an “icy” first meeting that “left no doubt that he never intended to and would not work with Fields,” the lawsuit says. The hostility peaked in August of last year, when Brunetti sent an email saying that he was clearly in charge and made all decisions. The next day, the lawsuit alleges, Brunetti “made vulgar, loud insults toward Fields in front of the staff and then physically threatened Fields, stating: ‘I’ll fucking crush you.'”
Fields said he was not given much reason for his termination in September, except that he allegedly “made disparaging statements to multiple third parties including the press without authorization.” Fields’ lawsuit calls that charge false and says it was just a “pretext” to fire him.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.