First posted on Commercial Law International on March 19, 2009.
The mother of late rapper Tupac Shakur, Afeni Shakur, filed a $10 million suit against Morgan Creek, an independent production company over the rights to make a biopic of the rapper. This is a counter claim to a suit filed earlier by Morgan Creek in Los Angeles alleging Amaru Entertainment reneged on a deal to sell the rights for a biopic about the deceased rapper.
Amaru Entertainment, what is that and how did they get involved in this dispute? Isn’t it between Morgan Creek and Ms. Shakur?
This is easily explained. Amaru Entertainment controls the estate of the late rapper which in turn is over seen by Ms. Shakur.
Ok, with me now.
This whole morass it would seem stems from, and you will never guess, Biggie Smalls. Yes the other late rapper and Tupac’s rival, Christopher Wallis a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G – no no please don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to reignite the whole West Coast-East Coast, Tupac vs Biggie thing. I simply want to point out that this dispute, in my opinion, is highly connected and only arose after the biopic, “Notorious,” about Biggie grossed over $20 million in its opening weekend earlier this January and potentially profitability of a Tupac biopic became fully crystallized in the minds of both parties.
The central legal question is this case appears to whether or nor there was a deal between Morgan Creek and Amaru entertainment. For all the present and former law students out there, yeah, offer and acceptance is rearing it ugly head out side the safe confines of a law school.
Was there in fact a deal? You decide:
Both parties were in advanced negotiations about a biopic on the later rapper. In December of last year Morgan Creek received a final term sheet which detailed everything that would be required to reach a deal. Morgan Creek’s executives in late January accepted this proposal – please note that this is after the “Notorious” opening weekend. It then began tell others in the film industry that it in fact owned the rights to a Tupac biopic. Morgan Creek then file suit in order to get Amaru to honor the deal.
Amaru Entertainment for its part claims that that there was no deal but that the final term sheet was in fact a counter offer and was the basis of further negotiations. In fact key details of a deal were not workout, such as an executive producer credit for Ms. Shakur. Because Morgan Creek was only one of many suitors for the biopic rights – others included Fox Searchlight, Paramount and Kennedy/Marshall – when they began telling others in the industry that they owned the film rights it sabotaged negotiations with the other studios.
Like I said a morass.