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Composer sues ex-partner for $20 million

/ Source: Reuters

A bitter Hollywood feud has turned even nastier.

Famed Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer sued his former longtime partner Jay Rifkin, accusing his collaborator on such award-winning soundtracks as “The Lion King” of secretly embezzling money from their business to support a lavish lifestyle.

The lawsuit, filed  Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, counters a $10 million legal action filed by Rifkin last month against Zimmer, in which he accused the composer of plotting to take over their Santa Monica, California, music studio “in a textbook example of breach of fiduciary duty.”

The dueling accusations come about a month after Zimmer tried to end the 15-year partnership after learning that Rifkin’s behavior was threatening his reputation and livelihood, Zimmer’s attorney Bonnie Eskenazi said.

“We told him that unless we could wind up the business fairly and quietly and quickly we were going to file a lawsuit,” she said. “We were in settlement negotiations.”

Rifkin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Eskenazi said that rather than harming Zimmer’s career, his bitter public split with Rifkin “has increased his desirability in Hollywood tenfold.”

The pair head the Media Ventures Entertainment Group, a large work space that is home to about a dozen composers. Zimmer’s lawsuit asks a judge to order the company into receivership and to force Rifkin to pay him $20 million in reparations plus punitive damages.

Betrayal charged
In his lawsuit, the composer of scores for such films as “Rain Man,” “Gladiator,” “Thelma and Louise,” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” described in detail examples of what he called Rifkin’s “insatiable greed” and “boundless capacity for betrayal.”

“This case exemplifies the age old and unfortunately often repeated Hollywood story -- a brilliant, creative artist gives his blind faith and trust to a supposed ‘friend’ whom the artist later discovers (too late) has abused that trust and is unlawfully and outrageously enriching himself through embezzlement, fraud, and other unsavory acts,” the lawsuit said.

They met in 1977 as teenagers in England and played in a rock band but soon fell out of touch until Zimmer was hired to score “Rain Man” in 1988 and needed an American sound engineer to comply with U.S. union rules, the lawsuit said.

When the film’s soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award, “Rifkin steadily began to insinuate himself into ever aspect of Zimmer’s career ... so that he could skim both money and credit from each deal...,” the lawsuit said.

Zimmer accused Rifkin of plundering their company to pay for home renovations, his car, furniture, lavish meals and expensive hotel stays for himself, his family and his mistress, and of extracting exorbitant fees from the studios who hired the composer.

In the most “heinous act,” Rifkin allegedly extorted huge sums from the young composers who worked at Media Ventures, charging them for the privilege of working with Zimmer, the lawsuit said.

Zimmer has been nominated numerous times for Grammy and Academy awards as well as other honors. He won three Grammys and an Oscar for “The Lion King,” and was most recently nominated for a Golden Globe Award for “The Last Samurai.”