Former Maker Studios CEO sues to block sale to Disney

April 11, 2014

Maker Studios co-founder and ex-CEO Danny Zappin and three other co-founders of the company filed a lawsuit Thursday in L.A. Superior Court seeking a temporary injunction to block an April 15 shareholder vote approving the multichannel network’s $500 million-plus sale to Disney, announced last month.

In the filing, they allege that the details of the sale presented to Maker shareholders are “defective and misrepresent and omit material facts necessary for Maker’s shareholders to make an informed merger vote.” Disney is not named in the suit.

The alleged missing details relate to a June 2013 lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs, which also include Maker co-founders Scott Katz, Derek Jones and Will Watkins.

In the original suit, the plaintiffs allege that, “motivated by greed and unfazed by the illegality or repercussions of their actions,” members of the board, including current executive chairman Ynon Kreiz, “conspired … to use their power to line their pockets with Maker’s assets,” to deny then-CEO Zappin of all his powers and “gut the rights” of common stock shareholders and take control of the company.

In the Thursday filing, the plaintiffs allege that when providing info to shareholders about the sale “certain Maker directors illegally issued shares to themselves and diluted common stock for their own financial gain to the detriment of Maker shareholders and take control of Makers’ board so that they could rapidly create a ‘liquidity event’ so that they could sell Maker and obtain significant returns on their investments irrespective of the best interests” of the company and its shareholders.

Zappin is no stranger to controversy. In 2012, Ray William Johnson, star of the YouTube hit Equals Three, publicly called out Zappin and other Maker execs for allegedly pressuring him to sign a revised contract that drastically reduced his share of the profits and ownership of the show. In the exchange, Johnson revealed that Zappin was once convicted of felony drug possession, a charge that Zappin later admitted.

In October 2013, Zappin bought a controlling interest in NewMediaRockStars, the news site that provided blow-by-blow coverage of his dispute with Johnson.

Maker and Disney have not yet responded to the suit.