The Chinese entertainment firm which owns exclusive rights to Stan Lee’s image says that a lawsuit filed by the comics legend is “completely without merit.”
Chinese firm hits back at $1 billion lawsuit filed by Avengers creator Stan Lee
Hong Kong-based firm Camsing International acquired POW! Entertainment – the company which Lee co-founded in 2001 – last year.
“The notion that Mr. Lee did not knowingly grant POW! exclusive rights to his creative works or his identity is so preposterous that we have to wonder whether Mr. Lee is personally behind this lawsuit,” said a statement released by Camsing on Thursday.
The Avengers creator is seeking $1 billion in damages from the company he co-founded, accusing its executives of tricking him into signing away his name rights before selling POW! to Camsing International.
Lee alleges that POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion duped him into giving the company exclusive rights to use his name and likeness in 2017, according to court documents filed to a Californian court on May 15.
The pair “conspired and agreed to broker a sham deal to sell POW! to a company in China,” according to Lee’s lawyer.
Camsing International has defended itself, saying that Lee and his only daughter are still substantial shareholders in the company. The firm says that it is looking forward to presenting “overwhelming” evidence in court.
The firm specializes in brand licensing, entertainment, marketing and promotion. It recorded a profit of $5.7 million in 2016/17 financial year.
Blind and grieving
Lee alleges that in 2017 he was duped into signing an agreement to grant POW! exclusive rights to use his name, image and likeness at the request of Duffy, Champion and his former business manager Jerardo Olivarez. Olivarez is being sued by Lee a separate lawsuit.
Lee said he was under the impression that the document was actually granting non-exclusive rights. Lee’s lawyer said that the agreement was therefore fraudulent, suggesting that the document might have been swapped, or his signature was forged or lifted from another document.
It was argued that the 95-year-old Lee, with an estimated worth of $50 million, was in no condition to sign the document.
Lee cannot read without help. He was declared legally blind in 2015, four years after he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Around that time, his wife, to whom he was married for almost seven decades, passed away.
The suit also claimed that POW! also took control of Lee’s social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter, without his consent.
Today was the first day I ever did a tweet myself. Before today, my account was done by others. I still do not have control of my Facebook. Someone else is doing it, NOT me.— stan lee (@TheRealStanLee) May 13, 2018
The complaint also alleges that Duffy and Champion would have stood gain financially if a deal between POW! and Chinese firm Camsing went through, which it did in 2017.
Duffy is now the vice president of Camsing Global, an affiliate of Camsing International.