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'Terminator Salvation' producers sue hedge fund Pacificor

Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek allege a plot by Pacificor to get control of 'Terminator' rights.

August 18, 2009|Ben Fritz

The legally embattled owners of "Terminator" are back -- in court, that is.

Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek, producers of Warner Bros.' and Sony Pictures' May release "Terminator Salvation," have filed a pair of $30-million lawsuits: One against Santa Barbara hedge fund Pacificor, which lent them money to buy the rights to the science-fiction film series, and another against a former employee of Pacificor who helped arrange the loans.

The suits come as Halcyon Co., which is owned by Anderson and Kubicek, has been attempting to raise money to continue operating, according to several people familiar with the situation. The duo also are developing a fifth "Terminator" film, two sources said.

If they don't prevail in the suit or raise enough money to pay back Pacificor, however, they may not get the chance to make another movie. According to the complaints, the hedge fund may end up taking control of the "Terminator" rights, which served as collateral for its loans.

Anderson and Kubicek have been involved in numerous lawsuits in their three-year career in Hollywood, during which "Terminator" has been the only film they have produced and released. Previous legal opponents have included investors, a "Salvation" producer and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

The suit against Pacificor involves a dispute over a $5-million bridge loan that the hedge fund made to Halcyon in December 2007 after it had provided a $30-million loan in April of that year to buy the "Terminator" rights. This month, Pacificor filed a lien against a separate company owned by Anderson and Kubicek called Dominion Group, through which they were to be paid for their producing duties on "Salvation."

Anderson and Kubicek claim in the suit that they do not owe money on the loan under the terms of a February settlement and that Pacificor filed the lien in a "desperate and deliberate attempt to seize ownership and control of the Halcyon entities and of the ['Terminator'] franchise."

Pacificor's lien, the complaint states, has prevented the pair from borrowing against the money they are owed for their producing services on "Salvation," a payday estimated to be worth more than $7.5 million, according to the lawsuit against Kurt Benjamin, a former vice president of business development at Pacificor who helped facilitate the loans.

"We haven't seen the lawsuit. However, we do not believe we have done anything wrong," said Andrew Mitchell, chief executive of Pacificor. "We believe we have the right to put a lien on the Dominion assets."

The lawsuit against Benjamin paints Anderson and Kubicek as a pair of relative naifs who were pushed into financial ruin by Benjamin, Mitchell and "Salvation" producer Moritz Borman.

It alleges that Benjamin hid the fact that he was working for Pacificor and represented himself as an independent agent in order to negotiate terms favorable to his employer. It also claims that he encouraged Anderson and Kubicek to unwisely spend Halcyon's own funds on producing a "Terminator Salvation" video game "so that it would not be able to meet its obligations and would therefore fall under the total control of Pacificor."

Benjamin, the complaint alleges, demanded and received numerous payments from Halcyon in order to close its various loans, payment that the lawsuit refers to as "blackmail." Pacificor CEO Mitchell, meanwhile, allegedly demanded to be paid $250,000 a year to serve on Halcyon's board.

"The allegations in the Halcyon lawsuit are false and without merit," Benjamin said. "I intend to refute these claims through the legal process and will file suit against Halcyon, Dominion, Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek."

The suit also claims that Borman offered Benjamin and Mitchell bribes to foreclose on the franchise and sell it to a buyer group that included him. Although Borman is not a defendant in the suit, and Halcyon settled a dispute with him earlier this year over producing fees he claimed to be owed, the new complaint alleges that he intentionally pushed "Salvation" over budget in an effort to force Anderson and Kubicek into further financial distress so they would be unable to pay back their loan to Pacificor and he could eventually buy the rights to "Terminator."

Asked to comment, Borman replied, "I have no idea what they're talking about."

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ben.fritz@latimes.com

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