Danny Zappin, Ousted CEO of Maker Studios, Raises $25 Million to Launch Digital Studio

Danny Zappin, who was fired as CEO of Maker Studios and unsuccessfully tried to block a shareholder vote on Disney’s acquisition of the multichannel network he co-founded, has raised $25 million from ex-Maker execs and talent to create digital studio Zealot Networks.

The startup’s investors include Zappin along with more than 15 former and current Maker Studios employees, talent and executives, according to Zappin. The funding will support operations, acquisitions and investments. Zealot will be based in Venice, Calif.

At this point, Zealot and Zappin are offering scant details of what it’s up to. The company said it’s focused on creators, with a strategy that “empowers creative entrepreneurs and talent, delivering multiplatform revenue, distribution and growth opportunities.”

“We’re operating in multiple passion-based verticals, building zealous audiences and providing services for companies, brands and talent across multiple platforms to help them realize their business visions and creative passions,” Zappin, who is president and CEO of the startup, said in a statement.

A rep said Zappin was unavailable for an interview, and declined to provide additional information including the identities of the investors. A “zealot” is “a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals,” the startup’s website notes.

Disney completed its acquisition of Maker Studios, in a deal worth up to $950 million, earlier this year. Zappin and three other former Maker execs filed a lawsuit seeking to block a shareholder vote on the Disney deal, which a California court rejected. That came after the foursome’s suit last summer alleging breach of contract and fraud over Zappin’s “ousting” as chief executive.

According to Zappin and his allies, Maker Studios’ board members and officers “illegally issued shares to themselves and diluted the common stock for their own financial gain to the detriment of other Maker shareholders.” In an April court filing responding to the Zappin-led suit, Maker Studios said the claims were “patently meritless” and that the litigation was “a reckless attempt, based on a quixotic personal vendetta, to throw sand in the gears of the (Disney) merger and endanger the interests of all Maker’s shareholders.”

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