Woody Allen’s manager is facing accusations that he secretly pocketed commissions from Allen’s films that should have gone to his management partners.
Dominique Cohen-Brezner filed a lawsuit on March 30 in Los Angeles Superior Court accusing Stephen Tenenbaum of withholding money from her late husband, Larry Brezner. Brezner, who died in 2015, was partners with Tenenbaum and David Steinberg in MBST Entertainment.
According to the suit, Tenenbaum had an obligation to share the revenues from Allen’s films with his partners. However, Cohen-Brezner alleges that Tenenbaum “secretly arranged to defer income from Woody Allen’s projects while at the same time planning to leave MBST and pocket the commissions for himself after forming his new management company.”
The three were partners in MBST for 20 years, and shared commissions from all of their clients. In addition to Allen, the company represented Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Bette Midler.
Cohen-Brezner claims that Tenenbaum and his son Andrew, who was also on the MBST payroll, helped structure the financing and distribution of Allen’s films. According to the suit, revenue from foreign distributors was paid into accounts that Tenenbaum could access and control. The lawsuit accuses him of failing to provide a full accounting of those funds to his management partners, and of structuring the deals with foreign distributors in order to defer payments and thereby keep all commissions for himself.
MBST operated as a subsidiary of Core Media Group, which acquired the management firm in 2005. Cohen-Brezner also claims that Tenenbaum gave Brezner “disastrously poor” financial advice in connection with the acquisition.
The suit contends that Tenenbaum’s secret deferral of Allen-related revenue “was the death knell of MBST.” Tenenbaum left the company in late 2012 and formed One More Time Management and Productions. He retained Allen as a client and he continued to produce Allen’s films. Facing a sharp dropoff in revenue, Brezner also left MBST “on terms that … were worse than Tenenbaum was able to negotiate for himself with CMG,” the suit alleges.
At the time of Tenenbaum’s departure, Cohen-Brezner contends that he had already produced “Blue Jasmine,” which was released in 2013, and substantially negotiated Allen’s participation in the John Turturro-directed “Fading Gigolo” and the 2014 musical version of “Bullets Over Broadway.” However, she states that Tenenbaum has refused to provide any commissions from those projects to his former partners.
According to the suit, the three partners engaged in active negotiations about the Allen commissions in 2014, and Tenenbaum offered the other two 25% apiece. They rejected the offer, saying each was owed one-third of the commissions. The negotiations stalled shortly before Williams’ death in 2014, and Brezner fell ill and died in October 2015.
Tenenbaum did not return calls seeking comment.
In 2001, it was Tenenbaum who urged Allen to sue his longtime producer, Jean Doumanian, for allegedly shortchanging Allen of $12 million in profits from eight films. The suit was settled in 2002 on confidential terms.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Tenenbaum continues to produce Allen’s films. He produced “Cafe Society,” which was released in 2016, but according to Allen’s publicist the two have since ended their business relationship.