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Shareholders of Stan Lee Media on Monday sued Marvel Entertainment, Stan Lee and others for more than $750 million — about half of the estimated proceeds from Marvel’s movies.
Also named are Marvel Entertainment Chairman Isaac Perlmutter and former Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad.
The suit, filed in federal court in New York City, accuses the defendants of denying shareholders of the failed dot-com their rights to 50-percent ownership of Lee’s co-creations at Marvel.
A Marvel spokesman told The Associated Press that the lawsuit is filled with “ridiculous claims.”
This is only the latest round in a dispute that dates back to 1998, when Perlmutter used bankruptcy procedures to end Marvel’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract with Lee. That negated Lee’s assignment to the company of his rights to creations such as Spider-Man, The X-Men, Iron Man and The Hulk.
However, it also freed Lee to form Stan Lee Entertainment (which later merged with Stan Lee Media) with now-infamous entrepreneur Peter F. Paul. The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2001, and emerged from protection in November 2006.
The lawsuit — and the $5-billion one that came before it, in March 2007 — hinges on a sequence of events that took place between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Lee’s employment, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the company and signed over his likeness, and any claims to characters.
Representatives of Stan Lee Media previously have claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company rights to his creations and his likeness.
It also should be noted that in July 2007, Stan Lee Media sued Stan Lee, who returned the favor.
For more, and more colorful, background, Barron’s published a solid article on the dispute back in June.
Update: Tom Spurgeon has commentary as he watches a press conference this morning featuring Martin Garbus, attorney for the plaintiffs.