A dispute between the heirs to the Ramones’ estates has culminated in a lawsuit, with one side accusing the other of effectively shutting down the company that controls the group’s intellectual property rights while unilaterally greenlighting a biopic of the rock band.
Linda Ramone, widow of Ramones’ guitarist Johnny Ramone, accuses Mitchel Hyman, lead singer Joey Ramone’s brother, of refusing to engage with the band’s record label, merchandising partners or business managers, preventing the company from conducting basic operational tasks while draining it of funds. The lawsuit also alleges Hyman is withholding dividends owed to Ramone “unless and until she accedes” to his “self-serving demands to make fundamental changes” at the company.
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The complaint, filed in New York’s state Supreme Court on Jan. 19, states Hyman “covertly developed an unapproved and unauthorized Ramones-based biopic, used Ramones IP across their own personal social media accounts without permission, and disparaged and threatened Ms. Ramone and other band members online.”
Linda Ramone and Mitchel Hyman are the lone shareholders of Ramones Productions Inc, which controls the group’s intellectual property rights, with each owning half of the company’s shares. David Frey, director of the company, is also named in the complaint, which seeks to remove him and appoint a temporary receiver to “prevent the further waste and destruction of the company and its assets.”
The complaint details a long string of disputes between the two sides that has led to a corporate stalemate. In 2018, Hyman initiated an arbitration against Ramone, which led to the filling of counterclaims. It was decided that both parties must advise the other of any potential business dealings or opportunities within 48 hours, with each side engaging in monthly mediation sessions. According to the suit, one conflict involved “protracted attacks on Ms. Ramone’s ability to freely use her legal name “Linda Ramone” on her social media accounts and otherwise.”
In 2019, a fight over the band’s portrayal potential biopic was brought before an arbitrator, who wrote that fans “want a Ramones movie — and to make that happen, each side will need to put on hold their individual desires to make a Mickey movie or a Linda movie and join together to authorize a great biopic to be made about this historically important band.” After the decision was issued, Ramone alleged that Hyman, without her approval, entered discussions with a production company to develop a movie based on “Hyman’s one-sided recitation of the history of the Ramones.”
The arbitrator subsequently ruled that the proposal should have been brought before the company’s board and required shareholder approval, per the complaint.
“To avoid any doubt: as 50% Shareholder of RPI, Ms. Ramone would never have consented to Defendants’ unilateral development of a Ramones biopic had that opportunity been presented to her in the normal course,” the suit stated. “Nor would she (then or at any point in the future) agree to permit the inclusion of any RPI intellectual property or recordings in such a film project.”
Ramone accused Frey of conveying to production partners that he and Hyman intend to circumvent prohibitions on a biopic and her rights as a shareholder of the company by rerecording Ramones tracks and “self-licensing” material for use in any movie.
Additionally, Ramone accuses Hyman of withholding approval of shareholder distribution payments in order to leverage certain structural changes at Ramones Productions.
“Defendants attempted to transact portions of Mr. Hyman’s Shares in RPI, for which Mr. Frey would obtain a commission,” the complaint stated. “If successful, their scheme would have enabled Defendants to remain on the RPI Board of Directors to block Ms. Ramone’s ability to move the company forward, while simultaneously extracting the value of the company for their own self-interest.”
Ramone looks to oust Frey for failing to engage with company partners and vendors. According to the complaint, he responded to only a fraction of the licensing requests sent to him in 2022.
The suit brings claims for breaches of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment, among other claims seeking to restructure the company. It seeks at least $1 million in damages and a court order removing Frey as director.
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