Having just emerged from bankruptcy protection on Dec. 6, 2006, Stan Lee Media, today (March 15, 2007), filed suit against Marvel Ent. worth $5 billion. In the suit, Stan Lee Media is claiming co-ownership of all Stan Lee's co-creations for Marvel, including Spider-Man, X-Men and the Incredible Hulk. Stan Lee Media requests half of Marvel's earnings derived from those creations, in addition to damages and legal fees.
The suit claims that Stan Lee throughout his employment with Marvel retained the co-creator rights to all his characters. In Aug. 1998 when Marvel terminated Stan Lee's employment, he regained those rights. Lee then went and formed the dotcom firm Stan Lee Media as a way to tap into the Internet boom. On Oct. 15, 1998, he signed over not only his creations to the new firm, but his likeness as well. Then in Nov. 1998, Lee individually entered an employment agreement with Marvel, signing over his Marvel characters and likeness to Marvel, despite having already signed over the rights to Stan Lee Media. The suit claims Stan Lee Media informed Marvel of their contract and that Marvel "independently and/or in collusion with Stan Lee, intentionally concealed the material terms" of Marvel's new agreement from Stan Lee Media, the public and its own shareholders.
Stan Lee Media has become a tragic icon the dotcom boom and bust. The public firm ultimately fizzled into bankruptcy and brought on several lawsuits and criminal charges related to stock manipulation. Stan Lee left the company and went on to form POW! Ent.
During bankruptcy, Stan Lee Media dropped its NASDAQ listing and became a private firm. During a Dec. 2006 special shareholders meeting, James L. Nesfield was made chairman and president of the firm. Nesfield is best known as the whistleblower who uncovered the mutual fund market timing scandal, which was worth trillions of dollars
In a Marvel statement, the company reports that Stan Lee Media is being sued by Stan Lee. In his suit, Lee is challenging the legitimacy of the management of Stan Lee Media. Lee currently serves as Publisher Emeritus of Marvel Comics. Lee commented that, "I do not support this action and believe the suit to be baseless."