We’ve been reporting on the impending lawsuit Florida Governor Rick Scott has been planning to file against Digital Domain’s former CEO and Pulse Evolution’s executive chairman John Textor. Well, the hammer has finally been dropped. According to the Palm Beach Post, Florida officials have finally filed a lawsuit to reclaim millions of incentive dollars from embattled visual effects firm Digital Domain Media Group and other parties, including Textor.
The suit states that Florida had been led astray. “The script had the makings of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience willing to suspend belief,” states the suit. “In th real world, there was no Hollywood happy ending. The hero did not save the day. The villain was not defeated. Instead, the story ended with Florida taxpayers begin cheated out of over $80 million dollars.”
The suit revolves around an economic development deal between former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Digital Domain. Scott’s inspector general, Melinda Miguel stated in her 2013 report that Textor had approached Enterprise Florida and Crist’s economic development director Dave Brill with a pitch for $100 million in incentives. The incentives would create 500 jobs in either Martin or Broward counties.
As reported, Gov. Scott had announced his hiring of William R. Scherer as outside counsel two weeks prior to the filing. Textor states that the timing of the suit is politically motivated and that Scott’s inspector general didn’t find an apparent violation of the law with the grant under Crist. However, it’s also been reported that Miguel stated in her 2013 report that Digital Domain’s financial statements were “extremely weak,” leading Enterprise Florida to only offer $6.1 million. This offer was also based on the return-on-investment requirements for the project. Miguel reported that after the offer Enterprise Florida gave, former Rep. Kevin Ambler and Crist funded the project through “proviso language.” The deal has also been called, according to lawsuit, a “de facto Ponzi scheme” that took $20 million grant from Florida and more than $60 million from Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. The company field for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2012 and laid off its staff of 280 in Port St. Lucie.
Image credit: Meredyth Hope Hall