Former Wizard World CMO Steve Shamus countersued the company in federal court, while rebutting claims that he’d enriched himself by diverting autographs paid for by the show to his personal benefit (see “Wizard World Files Suit Against Steve Shamus”). In the process he took a couple of shots at the company, disputing the description of Wizard World shows in its complaint as “pre-eminent” and “well-regarded,” illustrating the acrimony that underlies this dispute.
And in an indication of the stakes and of Shamus’ reaction to the dispute, the answer to the complaint discloses that Shamus was hospitalized on October 26 after suffering a severe panic attack, and was discharged the next day.
Shamus’ response to the Wizard World complaint consists largely of denials of many of the allegations in the complaint, including that Shamus had diverted autographs to his personal benefit, or tried to delete his email account. The response also includes a number of affirmative defenses, among them that punitive damages are barred due to Shamus’ good faith efforts, and that some claims may be barred by statues of limitations.
And as Shamus’ attorney indicated in his initial response to the suit (see “Steve Shamus’ Attorney Responds to Wizard World Suit”), Shamus’ counterclaim against Wizard World relies on Shamus’ allegations that he was underpaid under his 2011 agreement with the company. Shamus’ filings include an “Employee Agreement” and a letter of agreement from May of 2011, both signed by then-CEO Gareb Shamus (Stephen’s brother). The two documents were also initialed by a third party, who, Shamus’ response says, was then-chairman and future CEO John Macaluso, who took over the following year (see “Exec Moves Roundup”).
Shamus also alleges that contrary to the complaint’s allegations that his employment agreement was “a fraud and a fabrication,” it was drafted by the company’s counsel, and that he had discussed it with at least four Wizard World CEOs and two Chairmen of the Board of Directors.
The employment letter provided for a salary of $150,000 per year and an annual bonus of up to 100% of salary, depending on performance. A grant of 500,000 options to buy stock in the company was also promised, but no separate option agreement was provided with the exhibits to the counterclaim. A severance of six months salary and bonus in the event of an at-will termination was also included.
Shamus alleges that he was paid under the employment agreement’s terms for only the first six months, and underpaid thereafter, and that he’d repeatedly asked to be paid the full amount. His counterclaim asks for $525,000 plus options and unpaid commissions, interest, and costs.
An initial conference on the case is set for next week, on November 22.