15 former producers with Hell’s Kitchen studio Tinopolis may be hitting the production company with a class-action-style lawsuit since being denied profit from a restructuring deal. Tinopolis is one of Britain’s largest production groups, and with revenue dips, due to COVID-19, the Executive chairman Ron Jones led a restructuring deal. However, the 15 producers question if COVID-19 was merely a “smokescreen” for management to wipe out the £50M in debt owed to them after selling their businesses to Tinopolis.
The group includes Cutforth and Lipsitz; Mark Soldinger, founder of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding producer Firecracker Films; John Brenkus and Mickey Stern, co-founders of Base Productions, which made ESPN’s Sports Science; Sally Sanders, who set up RuPaul’s Drag Race sales house Passion Distribution; and Stuart Carter, co-founder of Pioneer Productions, which makes Discovery’s How The Universe Works.
In written replies to Deadline questions, a Tinopolis spokesperson said: “The directors have always acted in line with their fiduciary duties. They have to act in the best interests of the company. Remember, directors and existing management have exposure to around half of the total loan notes themselves. To clarify: other loan note holders sold businesses to Tinopolis for a mixture of cash (c.50%-70%) and the rest in loan notes. These notes gave them returns based on the whole group, not on how the businesses they sold subsequently performed. Many of these, in fact, underperformed, yet their vendors received group-based returns over many years.”
“They’ve managed to dump us, but they’re then going to go and sell our companies in a group and realize the value for them. That’s tough to watch happen,” said Passion Distribution founder Sanders, who now serves as an executive producer on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Another former employee added: “In retrospect, we were crazy to sell our companies to Tinopolis as they didn’t pay what was promised. And secondly, after what we’ve been through, anyone would be crazy to buy Tinopolis in the future.”
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