While the Avengers prepare to face their biggest battle yet in Marvel’s upcoming “Infinity War”, the superhero team’s creator is gearing up for an even bigger war after launching an explosive lawsuit against his former business manager, alleging he ripped off millions of dollars from the comic book icon while Lee was “despondent” over the death of his wife.
As People reports, the 95-year-old creator of such characters as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four is suing ex-manager Jerardo Olivarez. According to court documents, after Lee’s wife of 70 years, Joan, passed away in late 2017, he “became the target of various unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists who saw a chance to take advantage of [his] despondent state of mind.”
One of these alleged opportunists, states the suit, was Olivarez, who in concert with other plaintiffs named in the suit assumed control of Lee’s professional and personal affairs and allegedly “caused approximately $4.6 million dollars to be transferred out of [his] Merrill Lynch Account without [his] authorization.”
The suit also alleges that Olivarez “convinced” Lee to set up a “false charity” called Hands of Respect, which the suit claims was nothing more than a vehicle to shift Lee’s money to Olivarez.
One example cited is a cheque for $300,000, which was supposed to be a loan for Hands of Respect, but was never paid back and is not “evidenced by any loan documents.” In addition, Lee’s lawyers claim that Lee’s signature on the cheque “is either a forgery or it was obtained by Olivarez under false pretenses.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Olivarez convinced Lee to buy him an $850,000 Los Angeles apartment. “Olivarez, as Lee’s trusted advisor and fiduciary, simply bought himself a home with Lee’s money without Lee knowing,” the documents state. “What is more, nearly $1.4 million disappeared from Lee’s accounts through a series of complicated wire transfers all initiated and ultimately received by Olivarez.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Olivarez inserted himself into Lee’s will and trust, invested “tens of thousands of dollars in a tie business that was a scam,” forged Lee’s signature on comic books and used his credit cards for “unauthorized purchases.”
While Olivarez didn’t respond to People‘s request for comment, an interview he gave for a recent article about Lee for The Hollywood Reporter offers his version of events.
“Mr. Lee told me I had given him a new lease on life after Mrs. Lee’s passing,” Olivarez told THR. “I had looked out for him during recent contract negotiations with Pow! [Entertainment, Lee’s production company]. He gave me a cheque as a thank-you.”
Olivarez also claimed that Lee is on the title to the $850,000 condo, telling THR that he had allegedly received death threats and Lee wanted him to live nearby in “a secure building where he thought I’d be safe.”
The most bizarre claim in the lawsuit alleges that Olivarez hatched a “diabolical and ghoulish scheme” in which he had a nurse draw blood from Lee, which Olivarez then sold — none of which was done with Lee’s consent.
“Olivarez had a nurse inject Lee with a syringe and extract many containers of blood, which he had Hands of Respect later sell in Las Vegas as a collectible for thousands of dollars,” states the lawsuit, adding that this “compounded Lee’s grief and angst and caused him tremendous emotional distress.”
Lee is seeking unspecified damages, and is suing for fraud, financial abuse of an elder, and misappropriation of his name and likeness.