Worldview Entertainment, which helped finance best picture Oscar winner “Birdman,” has been hit with a lawsuit alleging fraud and mismanagement of a $25 million investment by one of its major backers.
Sarah Johnson, daughter of billionaire Charles B. Johnson, made the allegations in a March 12 suit filed in New York State Court.
“This misconduct has substantially devalued Plaintiff’s investment and virtually ensured that she will recoup a fraction of the millions of dollars she invested in the Worldview Film Funds,” the suit said.
Besides “Birdman,” the complaint details transactions dating back to 2011 and involving “Blood Ties,” “Devils’ Knot,” “Tulip Fever,” “The Immigrant,” “Welcome to the Punch,” “The Green Inferno,” “Child 44,” “Song One” and “Wish I Was Here.”
It’s the fourth suit involving Worldview that has been filed since last summer, when founder Christopher Woodrow was ousted. The company has largely ceased operating.
Former CFO Hoyt David Morgan sued in July to get an exec producer credit on “Birdman” and $2.7 million for his contributions; Maria Cestone, Woodrow’s former business partner, filed suit against Woodrow claiming that he and his wife made hundreds of thousands of dollars in bogus expenses charged against the company; and Woodrow countersued in October, accusing the company and former business partners of defamation.
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Johnson’s suit names Cestone, Woodrow, Morgan, current chief operating officer Molly Connors and seven different Worldview entities as defendants. A rep for Woodrow had no comment.
“After fraudulently inducing Plaintiff to invest millions of dollars in the Worldview Film Funds, Defendants Cestone, Woodrow, Conners and Morgan, and the corporate entities that they managed, engaged in gross mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duty,” the suit said.
Johnson is seeking compensatory damages of at least $20 million as well as punitive damages of at least $50 million.
“Among other things, Defendants have entered into (or permitted to be entered into) agreements with the sole objective of taking exorbitant management and/or producer fees from Plaintiff’s sizeable investments and have failed to meet even minimal thresholds of reasonableness in connection with their management of certain film assets, thereby irrevocably damaging Plaintiff’s projected returns,” Johnson alleged.