Jay Rifkin has sued his longtime business partner, composer Hans Zimmer, claiming he secretly conspired to take over their business, Media Ventures, himself. Rifkin seeks in excess of $10 million in damages.
According to the complaint, filed in L.A. Superior Court on Thursday, Zimmer and Rifkin first collaborated on music as teenagers and reunited in 1988 to form Media Ventures. During their partnership, Zimmer did the composing and Rifkin handled the engineering, recording, producing and business affairs. In 1995, Zimmer won an Oscar for the score of “The Lion King” while Rifkin won a Grammy for producing the soundtrack album.
The National Board of Review recently announced that Zimmer is to receive a career achievement award. His film scores include “Rain Man,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and Warners’ upcoming “The Last Samurai,” which is his 100th score.
By the late 1990s, the company had hired numerous “resident composers” to assist with Zimmer’s scores and other composing projects. The composers split fees with Media Ventures and left once their own careers were established.
The suit alleges that in order to keep the talent it nurtured, Media Ventures decided that the composers must sign management contracts with the company and that, to set a precedent, Zimmer would be the first to sign a formal agreement. Although Zimmer did not have a contractual obligation to use Media Ventures, the suit alleges that the company relied on Zimmer’s use and gave him substantial benefits such as increasing his fees and improving his deal with ASCAP.
Zimmer, however, informed Rifkin that he would no longer commission Media Ventures to work on his scores and allegedly encouraged other composers, via a series of secret emails, to break their ties with the company and join his new composer fraternity.
Rifkin’s attorney, Henry Gradstein of Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem, said: “In this country, partners don’t treat each other like this. Even if they want to dissolve, they still have fiduciary duties and they must treat each other honestly and fairly.”
But Bonnie Eskenazi of Greenburg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger & Kinsella, who represents Zimmer, says he is the wronged party. “We told Jay that Hans was dissatisfied with his management and Hans was going to file for dissolution. Evidently, Jay thought that by filing first, he would get better press. We can’t wait to get Jay on the witness stand, where his acts and omissions will become apparent to the world.”
Eskenazi said Zimmer would file a counterclaim shortly.