Composer Hans Zimmer launched a countersuit against his former partner Jay Rifkin on Monday, claiming that his “supposed friend enriched himself” to the tune of $20 million “through embezzlement, fraud and other unsavory acts.”
According to the cross-complaint filed Monday in L.A. Superior Court, Rifkin created a convoluted web of companies and used them to pay for personal expenses such as home renovations, lavish meals and air fares. At the same time, he would refuse to pay bill-back charges and invaded client trust funds.
Zimmer’s attorney, Bonnie Eskenazi, said, “Hans has been betrayed by a person he completely trusted with his life’s work. When Hans finally uncovered the awful truth about Jay’s heinous misconduct, he was shocked and stunned. As he continues to discover more and more horrendous details of Jay’s misdeeds, his resolve to right these wrongs becomes stronger and more determined.”
Last month, Rifkin sued Zimmer, claiming he was trying to take over their 15-year-old partnership, 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. Zimmer’s 100 film scores include “Rain Man,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “The Last Samurai.”
Media Ventures hired numerous “resident composers” to assist on the scores. According to Rifkin’s suit, when he asked Zimmer to sign a management contract with Media Ventures to formalize the relationship under which Media Ventures was commissioned to produce the scores, Zimmer refused and encouraged other composers to leave the company. Rifkin’s suit seeks $10 million in damages, claiming the partnership relied on Zimmer and provided substantial benefits such as increasing his fees.
Attorney Henry Gradstein, who represents Rifkin, said, “The idea of a web of companies designed to defraud is preposterous. Different entities were set up for different aspects of the parties’ businesses such as for a multimillion-dollar real-estate enterprise. The parties own a square block in Santa Monica worth millions more than they paid for it. Is that what Zimmer is complaining about? As a result of the platform of Media Ventures, Zimmer was able to take on numerous projects for which he earned millions of dollars in composer’s fees. Is he going to give that money back?”
According to Zimmer’s suit, he was unaware that Rifkin made composers pay him for the privilege of working with Zimmer, in some cases “extorting” half of the composers’ salary. Zimmer claims that last summer, some composers disclosed they were being extorted by Rifkin, and executives at some of the studios told Zimmer about Rifkin’s dishonest business practices. Following an internal investigation, Zimmer determined that he, too, had been cheated by Rifkin and demanded a parting of the ways.