Perhaps nosey shutterbugs will start taking Meghan Markle seriously when she tells them to stay out of her business now that a protracted legal battle with the Hollywood princess has forced a massive paparazzi operation into bankruptcy.
Splash News & Picture Agency, one of the top shops in the commerce of gotcha celebrity photographs, has filed for Chapter 11 protection in a Nevada bankruptcy court due in part to a costly invasion of privacy lawsuit brought by Meghan Markle last September for snapping pictures of her son, Baby Archie, during a “private family outing” in a Canadian park, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Splash president Emma Curzon says the Markle lawsuit as well as a case brought against the agency by a former employee—plus a shortage of celebs available for public viewing during the pandemic—led the company to file for bankruptcy after it defaulted on a $972,000 loan from Deasil Limited, which holds a blanket lien on nearly all of Splash’s assets.
“Splash’s financial problems stem from three sources,” Curzon stated in a declaration submitted to the court. “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. This situation has been exacerbated by two ongoing litigation cases and the costs of defending these cases.”
While Splash promised in December to refrain from snapping unauthorized pics of Meghan, Prince Harry and their family in the future, media reports that Splash’s word of honor had settled the dispute were apparently premature.
“The 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,” Curzon said. “Furthermore, if the plaintiffs were to prevail in that case it would likely result in a large attorney fee award against Splash. 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.”
Splash is also fighting a suit brought by former account manager Esmeralda Servin, who claims she was subjected to sexist remarks during her tenure and that she was fired for raising concerns about illegal bidding and questioning the lack of transparency in Splash’s commission structure.
As Curzon tells it, Splash needs protection now because its insurance might not cover liability in Servin’s case, and the cost of defending itself also became too much to bear.
One novel approach Splash resorted to in an effort to make bank proved futile. Although the agency went down crying free speech, it had gotten into the business of suing celebrities for copyright infringement for posting Splash photos of themselves on social media. The litigious outfit’s targets include Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Jessica Simpson and New York Giants star Odell Beckham, who said Splash tried to extort him for $40,000 over an Instagram post.
According to the filing, money brought in by infringement claims plummeted last year. Plus, as Curzon said, “Attorney bills have drained, and continue to drain, cash from the business.”
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