The owner of Tortuga Festival in Ft. Lauderdale is in a two-way legal fight with his former partners at Huka Entertainment and, recently, Eventbrite over a $1 million advance paid to Huka by Ticketfly in 2013. Only half the advance was recouped and now Eventbrite’s attorney wants to stop a new ticketing agreement between Rock the Ocean CEO/Tortuga Festival Founder Chris Stacey and Front Gate Tickets, who he has contracted to ticket the event for 2018.
In response, Stacey has filed a suit against Eventbrite after receiving a threatening letter from their attorney, asking for a judgment that shows Tortuga and Rock the Ocean are not obligated by the six-year-deal with Huka, according to documents included in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tennessee. Huka Entertainment went bust following the collapse of Pemberton festival in British Columbia earlier this year.
Stacey is also locked in a three-year-old legal battle with Huka and its former CEO AJ Niland. In August, Niland was forced by the courts to sell his stake in Tortuga to Rock the Ocean to settle their long dispute. After Niland tried to kill the settlement, a federal judge issued an order forcing him to stop interfering in the transfer of property.
The transfer didn’t end the legal battle — Stacey is now alleging that Niland “transferred millions of dollars of (Tortuga’s) money to itself and its affiliates” and is seeking $4.1 million in damages from Huka, who it accuses of secretly selling its interests in the festivals. In its defense, Huka lawyers say the company honored its contracts with Rock the Ocean and paid a number of distributions, arguing that Stacey is demanding money he is not owed. That case is set for trial Dec. 12 in Tennessee.
With the festival now 100% under his control, Stacey is suing Eventbrite and Ticketfly to get out of his 2013 ticketing contract, filing preemptively after Stacey received a Nov. 6 letter from Eventbrite Litigation Counsel Lisa Gorman threatening him with breach of contract. Eventbrite bought Ticketfly for $200 million in June.
In the letter, Gorman threatens Stacey over an unrecouped $500,000 and accuses Stacey of misrepresenting his intention to renew with Ticketfly for Tortuga 2018, which is being headlined by Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, Eric Church and Snoop Dogg. She also accuses Stacey of lying to Ticketfly as part of a scheme to “gain access to the historical event data to which Huka had access.”
“To facilitate resolution,” Gorman writes “we request you cease and desist from making any ticket sales to this year’s (Tortuga) through Live Nation and instead proceed with ticketing the event through Ticketfly.” Moving forward with the Live Nation-owned Front Gate platform would force Eventbrite to “engage our outside litigation counsel to enforce all our legal rights, including filing a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against (Rock the Ocean) and Live Nation.”
The letter also threatens Rock The Ocean with a call to preserve documents and communications in the case, warning “your failure to comply with this notice can result in severe sanctions being imposed by a court for spoliation of evidence.”
Stacey’s attorneys argue that Ticketfly’s deal for Tortuga was with Huka, which went out of business after investors in the Pemberton festival placed the event in bankruptcy, surprising and drawing the scorn of many executives in the music industry when fans were not given refunds. WME Head of Music Marc Geiger told Huka “I’m coming after you,” and Ticketfly put a lien on Huka’s future concerts and even wrestled several shows away and gave them to other promoters, all part of an attempt to recover the $6 million in refunds owed to customers. Earlier this year, Amplify reported that 80% of fans had been refunded via credit card chargeback.
Lawyers for Stacey say they filed the request for a preliminary injunction against Ticketfly because the company “is threatening to try to disrupt a major annual music festival based on the frivolous assertion that the owner of that festival, TMF2013, and its parent entity, Rock the Ocean, are contractually bound to sell tickets to the festival exclusively through Ticketfly. In fact, neither plaintiff is party to any existing contract with Ticketfly.”
“Because festival passes for the April 2018 iteration of the festival are already on sale, a speedy hearing and resolution of this controversy is necessary,” Stacey’s attorney John Jacobson writes.
The lawsuit was filed Nov. 29, a few days after a presale began for Tortuga. Tickets for the concert went on sale on Dec. 1. According to the lawsuit, Rock the Ocean became the 100% owner of the festival in September.