Another dispute focused on the couple's minor league hockey team, the Helena Bighorns of the North American Hockey League. Koules, a longtime hockey fan and player who once toiled in the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks' farm system, had bought the team with Shapiro for $150,000 in 2001 (their son is an accomplished local player).
Shapiro said she was kept in the dark about their additional purchase of an ice arena, also in Helena, for nearly $1 million. One of her lawyers argued the two investments were losing more than $26,000 a month after their separation and asked that they be sold immediately.
"In essence, [Koules] wants [Shapiro] to pay for his hobby as long as possible and then have the court award the assets to him," a lawyer for Shapiro wrote. An accountant working for Shapiro said Koules had intentionally kept the team and the arena's true financial health from Shapiro.
"[Koules] informed me that he had deliberately misinformed [Shapiro] during their marriage about the financial condition of his hockey team investment," David Blumenthal, an accountant retained by Shapiro, wrote. "He expressed to me concern that [Shapiro] was now going to find out that he had funded his hockey team's operating losses of approximately $300,000 to $400,000 since his acquisition of the team." The team has yet to be sold.
The most dramatic dispute, however, was over the "Saw" movies, and if the divorce had gone to trial, the franchise would have been at the center of it.
The low-budget films were financed by Twisted Pictures, the production company composed of Koules, Burg and Gregg Hoffman (who died in 2005). The three "Saw" horror films have been global blockbusters, selling more than $420 million in movie tickets worldwide and an enormous number of DVDs. Since Koules, Burg and Hoffman owned the movies, the three producers collected a huge cut of the film's receipts. (As did Charlie Sheen, whose management firm is run by Koules and Burg. According to the court records, the actor was repaid for a $50,000 investment in the first film and then pocketed $431,000 in "Saw" profits. His spokesman declined to comment.)
Because the first film was created during her marriage to Koules, Shapiro believes she is entitled to some profits from all of the "Saw" movies; a third film was released in October 2006 and a fourth film is scheduled to be released in October 2007. In essence, she argued that "Saw" is like James Bond: The sequels are not separate, unique works but owe their provenance to an original idea formed during their marriage. (Shapiro says she invested $500,000 of her money in the first film, although those funds were apparently community property.)
Koules argued that only profits from the first film should be counted as community property, since the subsequent movies were made and released after their separation. He had offered to split his half of the "Saw II" proceeds with her while the matter was being litigated, with the remaining 50% in a frozen account. There was no accounting in the court records for the third and fourth films.
Herma Hill Kay, a family law professor at UC Berkeley's law school, said Shapiro might have prevailed in her quest to collect money from the post-separation "Saw" sequels. "I think they have a very strong case," she said. "At the very least, you should get an apportionment" of the profits.
Koules maintained that he deserved a share of Shapiro's future earnings too. Koules essentially argued that Shapiro's clients belonged to her, while Shapiro said they were ICM's.
To bolster his position, Koules wanted to open ICM's books, study the gross revenues generated by Shapiro's clients, depose ICM Chairman Jeff Berg and top agent Ed Limato, and get a list of Shapiro's clients over the span of their marriage.
Concerned that part of ICM's confidential and proprietary business could become public, the agency sought to limit disclosures. A judge in the matter, worried that the release of ICM's commission records would cause "chaos" to the agency and its clients alike, said that only edited financial records would be given to Koules for review.
The judge crafted a template for how earnings for Shapiro's clients could be presented in a confidential format. Striking one of the only light moments in the case, the judge listed one of her client's as "Fred Flintstone."
In settling before trial, Shapiro and Koules avoided any more disclosures of their finances and the ultimate profitability of the hit horror franchise. But in the course of the messy litigation, they did echo in their breakup one of the tag lines of "Saw II": "Oh yes