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Stan Lee has come out swinging against his former company POW! Entertainment, filing a $1 billion lawsuit saying he was taken advantage when he was in an emotionally and physically fragile state.
The comic-book icon filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against POW! Entertainment, as well as current POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion. The suit says they “conspired and agreed to broker a sham deal to sell POW! to a company in China and fraudulently steal Stan Lee’s identity, name, image, and likeness as part of a nefarious scheme benefit financially at Lee’s expense.”
“Pursuant to their conspiracy and agreement, Defendants, and each of them, knowingly made material misrepresentations of fact, and forged or fraudulently obtained a signature from Lee to give POW! Inc. the exclusive use of Lee’s identity, name, image, and likeness as described in further detail below,” the suit continues. “Defendants, and each of them, knew that their objective was unlawful and they intended to aid each other in achieving that unlawful objective.”
According to the suit, Lee formed POW!, a media production company, with Champion and Arthur Lieberman. The company was sold to Chinese company Camsing International Holding Limited last year, the complaint notes.
However, the suit says, Champion and POW! CEO Duffy were among the “opportunists” who “saw a chance to take advantage of Lee’s despondent state of mind” after the 2017 death of his wife Joan. According to the suit, while Lee’s “beloved wife was on her deathbed, and Lee was in a state of total devastation,” Champion and Duffy brokered a deal to sell POW! to Camsing, and “never disclosed the actual terms of the deal to Lee before closing it.”
The suit goes on to accuse the defendants of obtaining a “fraudulent Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement” which “granted POW! the exclusive right to use Lee’s name, identity and likeness on a worldwide basis in perpetuity, thus taking away the most important and prized possession Lee and his family owned his entire life … In addition, POW! took control of Lee’s personal social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, thereby impersonating Lee before a combined 15 million followers worldwide.”
According to the suit, Lee “does not recall anyone reading the Illegitimate Document to him, and, due to his advanced macular degeneration, he could not have read it himself.” If someone had read the document to Lee, the suit adds, “he would not have knowingly signed it. Lee has yet to provide anyone with the exclusive right to use his identity, image, name and likeness.”
The suit suggests that Duffy, Champion or POW! either forged Lee’s signature, lifted it from another document or induced him to sign it by telling him it was something else.
The suit “seeks damages in excess of $1 billion.”
TheWrap has reached out to Camsing for comment on the suit.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.