Fabien Baron is squaring off with Peter Brant over the recent bankruptcy of Interview magazine, and the latter seems none too pleased.
The wealthy onetime publishing mogul, who purchased Interview shortly after founder Andy Warhol’s death in 1987, this week urged a Manhattan court to reject a request by Baron for records regarding the financial goings-on of the magazine in the years preceding its sudden filing for liquidation. Baron was editorial director of Interview for a decade, only leaving earlier this year after months of working largely unpaid. He’s now the publication’s largest unsecured creditor with more than $600,000 owed to him.
Given the nature of a bankruptcy liquidation filing means an independent trustee has already been assigned to conduct something of an investigation into Interview’s operations in the months before it filed, counsel for Brant argued Baron’s request is “duplicative” and driven by “numerous baseless allegations.” At the least, Brant’s lawyer said the request should be postponed until after the trustee has completed his probe.
Baron is apparently seeking documentation that could possibly show claims of financial impropriety are, in fact, not baseless. Interview is already set to “relaunch” in September, again under the leadership of Kelly Brant. She’s Interview’s current president and Brant’s oldest daughter. Without documentation, Baron’s claims will remain just that, and if whatever Interview assets are needed for the relaunch (like trademarks, which are not included in the bankruptcy assets) are sold or transferred and put into operation, any additional investigation would be that much more convoluted and costly.
Specifically, Baron is seeking information from Brant and Singleton LLC, the holding company that was early this year assigned Brant’s $8.2 million secured claim on Interview’s assets stemming from his advances to the title (the only secured claim, leaving one to wonder if “Singleton” isn’t a bit of mocking wordplay), as well as Deborah Blasucci, Interview’s former chief financial officer who in 2016 sued the publication for wrongful termination and more than $5 million. Baron says Blasucci “may have important knowledge about the loan and the debtors finances in 2016 and prior years.”
He wants to know if any of Brant’s entities “improperly” have any of Interview’s assets, if the bankruptcy process was “manipulated” to escape responsibility for its creditor debts and “enable” another entity, like newly formed Crystal Ball Media, to take control of Interview’s assets. Baron added that Crystal Ball, a new company created by Kelly Brant for the purpose of relaunching the magazine, is “upon information and belief owned and controlled directly or indirectly by Brant, an individual that pled guilty to a felony related to tax evasion.” Brant in 1990 served a prison term of just under four months after a guilty plea related to charges of tax evasion through a shell company set up through his main business, White Birch Paper Co.
Although this sort of request by Baron, technically a type of subpoena, is often dealt with during formal creditor meetings, those have been “less than informative,” according to his motion. Kelly Brant and Christopher Brant, appearing at meetings on behalf of Interview and Brant’s two additional media holding companies going through bankruptcy, respectively, “were coy and claimed lack of memory or knowledge as to a number of factual items concerning the debtors financial affairs.”
Baron added that other answers by Brant’s children during creditor meetings have been “untrue or misleading.” While they admitted five former Interview employees are now working for Crystal Ball, Baron claims they’ve made offers to more than 20; they denied an official interest in acquiring Interview’s assets, despite sending a memo and an e-mail announcing the relaunch; and apparently dodged questions as to when and why a valuation on the magazine was performed prior to its bankruptcy filing.
Given all that, Baron said “an immediate investigation is needed to examine the relationships of the Brant entities to one another, matters regarding the insider loan and whether the Brant entities have improperly acted to interfere with the administration of the debtors assets and estates.”
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