A major paparazzi shop claims it was forced to file for bankruptcy because of skyrocketing costs in its legal battle against Meghan Markle.
Splash News & Picture Agency, which is being sued by Markle in a privacy lawsuit over photos taken during a “private family outing” in Canada, said it defaulted on a loan now worth nearly $1 million and accordingly was forced to file for Chapter 11 in a Nevada bankruptcy court.
Shot in January 2020, the photos taken with a long lens showed Markle on Vancouver Island walking her two dogs with her baby son, Archie, in a sling. At the time, Markle and Prince Harry had briefly settled in Canada after announcing plans to step back from their royal duties.
In December, the BBC and other press outlets reported a settlement, with a Splash rep saying at the time that the agency “will not take unauthorized photographs of the family of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
Nevertheless, the case is not fully resolved, Splash said in a Wednesday statement. The agency — which snaps pics of celebs from Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift to Nick Jonas and Lizzo — said it believes Markle brought the lawsuit on behalf of Archie in a move “designed to destroy the business” of the company.
“Having tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with the Duchess, it is the view of the Directors that this places an unacceptable risk to the survival of the business, and have regrettably taken the business into Chapter 11 to protect our employees,” Splash said. “We will continue to trade as normal and no jobs will be affected by this announcement.”
According to bankruptcy papers, copyright infringements brought in just over $118,000 in 2020 but just $21,000 last year. That was nowhere close to covering expenses.
A rep for Markle did not respond to requests seeking comment.
As Splash fought for free speech with Markle, it has pursued many celebrities in court. Indeed, the agency is considered one of the pioneers in actions against famous individuals for posting copyrighted images of themselves, and it has faced off against the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Liam Hemsworth and Nicki Minaj.
“The [Markle] case involves free speech related issues under United Kingdom law and, unfortunately, has proven to be too unbearably expensive for Splash to continue its defense,” Splash president Emma Curzon said in a declaration submitted as part of the bankruptcy.
“Furthermore, if the plaintiffs were to prevail in that case it would likely result in a large attorney fee award against Splash,” Curzon added. “Notwithstanding the merits of the case the company has sought to settle this matter but has been unable to agree [on] a financial settlement within its resources.”
Aside from the Markle dustup, Curzon blamed the pandemic, which has kept celebs indoors and away from Splash’s long lenses, as well as another outstanding lawsuit for its financial woes.
“As a consequence of the global pandemic the availability of celebrity images has declined and budgets within media companies have been cut to reflect wider macro-economic challenges,” the exec said in court papers. “This situation has been exacerbated by two ongoing litigation cases and the costs of defending these cases.”
The other case involves a lawsuit from Splash’s former account manager, Esmeralda Sevrin, who claims she was repeatedly subjected to sexist remarks at the company. She also says she was fired after raising concerns about illegal bidding and lack of transparency over Splash’s commission structure.
“Attorney bills have drained, and continue to drain, cash from the business,” Curzon said.
Splash reported Deasil Limited as a secured creditor with a blanket lien on nearly all of its assets. With about $972,000 owed to Deasil, the paparazzi agency has been forced to file for Chapter 11.
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