Former Harmonix Shareholders Sue Viacom

December 22, 2010 -

Former Harmonix shareholders filed a lawsuit against Viacom last week, accusing the company of trying to find a slick way to get out of paying performance-based bonuses. According to a lengthy Gamasutra report, the group includes Harmonix founders Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, as well as other early funders of the Boston-based developer. The group claims that Viacom is manipulating costs after the initial success of Rock Band to avoid a potentially giant earn-out payment.

The complaint stems from a 2006 acquisition deal that has soured over the past four years as the Rock Band franchise began to wane in popularity. Viacom acquired Harmonix in September 2006 for $175 million and the promises of bonuses based on the company's performance. According to the complaint, the earn-out formula was supposed to be 3.5 times any gross profit in excess of $32 million earned in 2007.

The group is seeking to "recover damages arising from Viacom's manipulation of these earn-out payments by diverting opportunities from Harmonix for its own benefit in breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing that inheres in Viacom's contract with Harmonix."

The Rock Band franchise generated over $1 billion in sales in North America through March 2009, according to Viacom. Viacom sent Harmonix's shareholders $150 million for 2007 earn-out payments for 2007, but set aside over $200 million, according to SEC filings. Nevertheless, the company has never paid any money for the 2008 earn-out. In financial statements starting in 2010, Viacom claimed that it was entitled to a "refund of a substantial portion of amounts previously paid" despite not publically stating why.

The issue of earn-out payments has been referred to arbitration. The agreement covered the years 2007 and 2008, based sales and profits from the Rock Band franchise during those periods.

Obviously, the relationship between Harmonix and Viacom is no longer amicable, as evidenced in Viacom's public statements that it wanted to sell the Rock Band maker. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman claimed recently that "the console game business requires an expertise and scale that we don't have."

However, there is more funny business that the group claims Viacom engaged in after the acquisition. It claims that Viacom tried to find ways to reduce the aforementioned payments to Harmonix shareholders, such as "a negotiation of the EA Partners distribution agreement in the middle of the earn-out period. The group alleges that Viacom "decided to forego the opportunity to reduce EA's distribution fees during 2008 (or in any other way enhance Harmonix's net income or Gross Profit for 2008), and instead demanded benefits for itself (rather than Harmonix) in exchange for allowing EA to continue distributing Rock Band."

The benefits Viacom sought from EA, according to the suit, included a multi-million dollar ad deal with Viacom's MTV Networks and other Viacom media outlets, a reduction in distribution fees beginning in 2009 (after the group's earn-out period) and "acceleration of 2009 payments to 2008."

The group contends that EA would have been flexible with the fees after the success of Rock Band, and that a lower distribution fee from EA would mean higher profits and higher earn-out bonuses for the group.

Finally, there the matter of a $13 million dollar escrow account put aside for legal disputes at the time of the merger. The group alleges that the funds in that account should be released because all of the lawsuits filed against Harmonix and its products have been settled or resolved. Harmonix shareholders claim that three days before the end of the agreement to release the escrow, Viacom sent "an Indemnity Notice in which it stated that it was providing notice of claims for indemnification."

Source: Gamasutra


 
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NeenekoMakes sense to me, and sounds kinda cool. One cool thing about Minecraft is the meta game, you can implement other game types within its mechanics. There are servers out there with plots, an episodic single player one sound kinda cool12/18/2014 - 11:07am
MaskedPixelantehttps://mojang.com/announcing-minecraft-story-mode/ Umm... what?12/18/2014 - 10:24am
NeenekoThat would make sense. Theaters probably can not afford the liability worry or a drop in ticket sales from worried people. Sony on the other hand can take a massive writeoff, and might even be able to bypass distribution contracts for greater profit.12/18/2014 - 10:03am
ConsterNeeneko: I thought they cancelled it because the major cinema franchises were too scared of terrorist attacks to show the film?12/18/2014 - 9:55am
Neeneko@Wonderkarp - there is still a lot of debate regarding if the movie was a motive or not. Unnamed officials say yes, the timeline says no.12/18/2014 - 9:10am
NeenekoSomething does not smell right though, Sony is no stranger to being hacked, so why cancel this film? For that matter, they are still not giving in to hacker's original demands as far as I know.12/18/2014 - 9:06am
PHX Corp@prh99 Not to mention the Dangerous Precedent that sony's hacking scandal just set http://mashable.com/2014/12/17/sony-hackers-precedent/12/18/2014 - 8:25am
Matthew WilsonI hope its released to netflix or amazon12/18/2014 - 12:11am
prh99Basically they've given every tin pot dictator and repressive regime a blue print how to conduct censorship abroad. The hecklers veto wins again. At least when it comes to Sony and the four major theater chains.12/17/2014 - 11:55pm
MaskedPixelante"It's not OUR fault that our game doesn't work, it's YOUR fault for having so many friends."12/17/2014 - 9:48pm
Matthew Wilsonapparently tetris did not work because he has a full friends list12/17/2014 - 9:21pm
WonderkarpSo Sony cancelled the release of the Interview. was it ever confirmed that the Sony hacking was done because of that specific movie?12/17/2014 - 8:54pm
MaskedPixelanteWow, Ubisoft went four for four, I didn't think it was actually possible.12/17/2014 - 8:37pm
MechaTama31Oh, ok, I was mixing up "on Greenlight" and "Greenlit".12/17/2014 - 8:23pm
Matthew Wilson@phx you beat me to it. how do you screw up tetris?! my ubisoft this is just stupid. no one should ever preorder a ubisoft game again! ps people should never preorder any game regardles of dev.12/17/2014 - 6:28pm
PHX Corphttp://www.ign.com/videos/2014/12/17/what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-tetris-ps4 I give up on ubisoft12/17/2014 - 6:01pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://comicbook.com/blog/2014/08/16/exclusive-original-unaltered-cut-of-star-wars-trilogy-to-be-rele/ Yeah, this'll never happen.12/17/2014 - 5:03pm
NeenekoThey have and exercise control over which games are allowed on their privately controlled 'open forum'. Their endorsement is fairly minimal since it is only 'we do not reject this', but it is still an endorsement of sorts.12/17/2014 - 3:58pm
NeenekoHistorically there have been issues with libraries allowing some groups but not others. Perhaps 'endorsement' is too strong a word, but their editorial control IS a preapproval process, even if the standards are pretty minimal.12/17/2014 - 3:56pm
E. Zachary KnightLet's put this a different way. My local library allows any group to reserve and use multipurpose rooms. That does not mean that the Library endorses all events that take place in those rooms.12/17/2014 - 12:54pm
 

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