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Roberto Clemente Biopic Sparks Lawsuit Over Rights

Roberto Clemente Biopic Sparks Lawsuit Over Rights

A lawsuit has been filed against the sons of baseball legend Roberto Clemente, who allegedly defrauded an indie production company by selling it the rights to a biopic of their father despite Legendary Pictures having already optioned the film.

That production banner, Inside the Park, in a complaint filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, says it developed the movie for over two years only for it to fall apart after learning that the endeavor was solely meant to “generate renewed interest and publicity” in the hall-of-famer for another project.

Luis R. Clemente and Roberto Clemente Jr. struck a deal with Inside the Park in January 2023 for the rights to the creation, production and distribution of a feature based on the life of their father and the biography “Clemente – The True Legacy of an Undying Hero,” which they authored. The company subsequently learned only months later that there was an issue with the rights granted under the deal. It alleges that the Clemente family “conspired” with rights clearance house CMG to conceal information that Teton Ridge, a media and entertainment company owned by former Legendary chief executive Thomas Tull, may have rights to the movie.

Teton Ridge’s interest in a film dates back to a 2015 deal Legendary reached with the Clemente family shortly after the biography was published, according to the complaint. Inside the Park was allegedly told that Legendary lost the rights because the company missed the final payment under the purchase agreement. The lawsuit claims that the family wanted out of the deal anyway because it felt that the company “took advantage of them,” pointing to never seen a script during the development of the movie, among other things.

“However, after a few weeks of very tense back and forth with a very concerned ITP, the Clemente Family finally acknowledged they had indeed received the payment from Legendary and that Legendary was the true owner of the Rights,” the complaint states. The family claimed it was not aware of the final $50,000 payment because it was wired to “some other account,” the lawsuit says.

The deal fell apart in August, starting with CMG returning its $18,000 commission for brokering the transaction. The Clemente family returned roughly $42,000 two months later. After Inside the Park inquired about another project that involved the rights it bought, CMG’s chief executive Mark Roesler responded, “I am the Chairman. As I told my son, the COO … bring it on. I dare you.”

Inside the Park argues that it was “fraudulently induced” by the Clemente family into purchasing the exclusive option to “get traction on their earlier film project,” which had gone “completely dormant,” and to “generate renewed interest and publicity in the Robert Clemente story and brand.” This includes a $60 million miniseries deal and a seven figure sponsorship deal for naming rights to Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Day, according to the lawsuit.

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The complaint brings claims for breach of contract, fraud, specific performance and declaratory relief, among others. It seeks at least $5 million in damages and a court order clarifying the exclusive ownership of its rights. 

Under its deal with Inside the Park, the Clemente family was to be paid $500,000 if the movie was set up at a major studio with a budget of over $30 million. There were two other compensation tiers with payment between $100,000 and $250,000 depending on budget. The family would also be entitled to five percent of hundred percent of defined net proceeds.

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