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Lay The Hammer Down

I have to admti, following this is like watching a Coen Brothers movie unfold in real time.  What should be a simple legal collection for Disney from Stan Lee Media is becoming a total farce, with drained bank accounts and missing individuals.  Those of you looking to write a "ripped from the headlines" script?  Here ya go.

To really tell the story right, we need to see how this all started.  This began with two friends, Stan Lee, the creator of a lot of Marvel characters, and Peter F. Paul.  The reason I didn't give a short descriptor of Paul is because...well, there's no way to give a short description.  Grab yerself a sandwich and a beer.  Paul first rose to prominence back in the 1970's as a lawyer in Miami, Florida.  He was the president of the Miami World Trade Center and the original owner and operator of Miami Free Zone Inc., the then-largest Foreign Trade Zone in the US.  One day, Paul got the bright idea to scam Fidel Castro.  He sold Castro's agents $8.75 mil worth of coffee.  One thing -- he never had the coffee.  According to Time Magazine, his plan to send a ship that paperwork said had the coffee, then sink the ship before it ever got to Cuba (he went for bonus points and was going to defraud the insurer, too).  But as so often happens, one tiny detail was overlooked -- the people who were supposed to sabotage the boat never made it on board because a port official in Santo Domingo was never bribed and refused to let them on the ship.

One yank on the loose thread, and the whole thing unraveled.  Police conducted their investigation, and decided to raid Paul's home.  They found cocaine in his garage (like Clapton should have sang, lost my job, lost my house, lost my car....cocaine....).  Paul pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and posession with intent to distribute.  Three years for fraud, eight for coke, served concurrently.  He got parole after three years and was barred from practicing law.  Now, most people, at this point, would be trying to stay out of as much trouble as possible to get back to their old lives.  Well, in 1983, Paul tried to enter Canada using the credentials of a dead man.  Making false statements to customs inspectors.  That's a federal crime AND a parole violation, and Paul went back to the pokey.

Once out of prison, Paul headed to LA to get into the entertainment business.  He scored a coup as far as making connections when he was appointed President of the California Bicentennial Foundation for the Constitution and Bill Of Rights.  As the name implies, this was to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the Constitution.  The LA Times, however, was less than impressed.  Among the things they reported was that the Foundation was selling a history book that referred to blacks as "pickaninnies" and that slaveowners were "the worst victims of slavery."  Wow.  Still, Paul was able to move into the entertainment industry as a manager, including managing Fabio.  Eventually, Paul met Stan Lee.  They solidified plans to start an entertainment company that would deliver entertainment over the Intertubes.  In 1998, Stan Lee Media was launched.  Lee and Paul were co-founders, and in August 1999, in the middle of the Internet stock market boom, Paul helped engineer a reverse merger with a shell company, Boulder Capital Opportunities Inc., that got them on the stock market.

By February, 2000, Stan Lee Media was a formidable operation.  The studio employed 165 people, and had market capital of $370 mil.  On Feb 29, they launched their first project, a superhero team called The 7th Portal, with a $1 mil presentation at Raleigh Studios (part of the money went to host Dick Clark).  Viewer interest was so big that Macromedia's Shockwave servers crashed.  Everyone was thinking SLM would be the Next Big Thing, enough so that the president of Sony Digital studios jumped to them in June.  SLM also entered into a joint venture with Japan's largest anime and manga company.  SLM also used $4.3 mil in stock to buy Conan Properties, owner of Conan The Barbarian.  But those of you who lived through those days remember that was when the dotcom bubble was about to burst.  The stock price was falling, and went below the sale agreement level for Conan, resulting in a lawsuit from the previous owners.

By this point, Paul was dabbling in politics.  In 2000, he was the largest contributor to Hilary Clinton's Senate campaign (Paul has stated that he was trying to persuade Bill Clinton to join the SLM board once he left the presidency and/or he was trying for a pardon of his previous offenses).  Paul produced and underwrote the Hollywood Farewell Gala Salute To William Jefferson Clinton in LA just before the 2000 Democratic Convention.  It helped raise over $1 mil for Hilary's Senate campaign.  Paul said the event cost $1.9 mil.  The Federal Election Commission filing says $500K.  Merrill Lynch would say in later indictments that Paul had borrewed the money from them fraudulently and they had lost $5 mil.  Two days after the gala, the Washington Post wrote about Paul's criminal record, and on August 16, Howard Wolfson, Hilary's spokesman, said she would return $2,000 Paul donated to her campaign, said she didn't know him, and "vowed not to take any contributions from him."

Back at SLM.  In November, 2000, SLM won the award for Best Entertainment Portal on the Internet, beating out Warner Bros. and Disney.  That was the only good news, though.  SLM had run out of money, and shut its doors December 19.  While this was going on, an investigation was started in Paul and corporate officer Stephan Gordon and their stock activities with the company.  It was eventually alleged that Paul and Gordon tried to pump up the stock's price using nominee accounts to buy 1.6 million shares and pay for it with bad checks.  Paul skipped the country, winding up in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  There, he fought extradition and managed 112 Interactive do Brazil, a software company.  Paul also retained Judicial Watch to represent him in a series of lawsuits against the Clintons (and also, it should be noted, the FEC, which he alleged was negligent because then never convicted Hilary).  The courts refused to hear the charges as long as Paul was camped out in Brazil.  On February 11, 2001, SLM filed Chapter 11, and the dissolution of the company began (the bankruptcy court eventually discovered that Lee had transfered the stuff he created at SLM to his new company, POW! Enterainment, without telling them).  Paul was eventually hauled back to the US after the New York US AG indicted him on a securities regulation charge.  Paul eventually pled guilty and got ten years, which he begain serving in October 2009.

Since then, Paul has been busy with a number of lawsuits on behalf of SLM (Lee has since washed his hands of the whole thing).  And so far, he's come up snake eyes.  All his suits against the Clintons have been thrown out.  He's tried suing over the release of the last Conan movie, the Spider-Man:  Turn Off The Dark musical, and several against Marvel Comics, alleging that, as SLM, they have a stake in characters Lee created for Marvel, so pay up.  This was met with derision.  And then, Paul bit off more than he could chew.  When Disney bought Marvel, SLM tried one more time.  This was not only dismissed, but Disney was awarded legal fees, $500K to be exact.  But with SLM in bankruptcy, Disney had to collect from those who funded the lawsuit.

And here's where the fun begins.  The litigation was funded by a company calling itself TAP-SLMI, owned by one "Mr. Wolk."  A court order was issued that the company had to cough up some documentation and Mr. Wolk had to be deposed.

Well, not only has Mr. Wolk not appeared (the company claims he's "been sick"), but the company bank account has been drained.  A year ago, it had $240K.  Now, it has $2K left, with money going to SLM legal costs and LOTS of it going to Mr. Wolk.

First rule of Hollywood is, "Don't screw with the Mouse."  Disney's lawyers are formidable, and what started as a nuicanse is now becoming a matter of principle.  They want to find this guy.  They want to show why you don't do things like this.

Get some popcorn, this is going to get very interesting.

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