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Fired exec at Hollywood firm files suit

Academy Award winner Phillip Feiner disputes his ouster from Pacific Title & Art Studio.

August 14, 2007|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

A month after winning an Academy Award for scientific achievement this year, the longtime president of Pacific Title & Art Studio, a Hollywood post-production house, was fired from his job.

On Monday, Phillip Feiner sued his former employer, Safeguard Scientifics Inc., in Los Angeles County Superior Court for more than $15 million, claiming that he was pushed out after 30 years at the company in an illegal and particularly harsh manner.

Feiner, who was let go in March, two days before his contract expired, said in the lawsuit that he was targeted after he refused to go along with an alleged scheme to make rosy projections about the company's earnings as the 86-year-old Hollywood firm was being readied for a sale.

Feiner also asserted in his breach-of-contract and wrongful-termination suit that he was denied a generous severance package he had been promised, and that a Pacific Title executive erased all the files on Feiner's personal laptop computer that he kept in his office. His laptop, which he used for work, stored family photos and details about his father's estate, which he was overseeing, and his list of business contacts.

An attorney for Pacific Title and Safeguard Scientifics said the companies had done nothing wrong. "They believe they acted properly toward Mr. Feiner and they are going to defend the lawsuit vigorously," said Jill Basinger, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery.

Safeguard Scientifics, a Pennsylvania holding company, sold Pacific Title in March for $23 million to an investment group that included Celerity Partners, Ticonderoga Capital and venture capitalist William Daniels. The new owners were not named in the suit filed by Bonnie Eskenazi at law firm Greenberg Glusker.

Feiner, who joined the company in 1977 as a cameraman, was named president in 1997 when Safeguard bought an interest. Safeguard acquired the rest of the company two years later. According to the suit, Pacific's sales soared to more than $31 million in 2005 from $13 million in 1997.

The company also became more involved in digital visual effects and film restoration.

Feiner and three other executives at Pacific Title were awarded a scientific-and-engineering award in February for their work designing the so-called Rosetta process for creating digital archival masters for digital film restoration.

Feiner's suit said that when he was fired on March 27, he was told not to return to the offices and he didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Instead, "Feiner's office was ransacked and he was not allowed to retrieve his personal items for two weeks. Even Feiner's Academy Award was paraded through the office as a trophy."

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meg.james@latimes.com

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