Quibi, the defunct streaming service founded by Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, wants to know whether Elliott Management’s financing of a patent lawsuit against it was motivated by a personal relationship between the hedge fund’s billionaire founder and a top executive.

In a brief filed late Thursday, Quibi questioned a romantic relationship between Paul Singer, Elliott’s founder and chief executive, and a coworker whose son is employed by Eko, the interactive-video company claiming trade-secret theft by Quibi.

“Elliott’s motivation for involvement in the lawsuit appears personal,” the filing said.

Quibi lawyers in Los Angeles federal court filing demanded access to communications between Elliott and Eko, as well as depositions from Singer, 76, and his girlfriend, Terry Kassel, 70, who is also Elliott’s head of strategic human resources.

Kassel’s son, Stephen Backer, holds a senior position at Eko, according to the filing.

Backer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Paul Singer
Paul Singer at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 21, 2015.
Getty Images

Elliott on Friday blasted the filing as a desperate attempt by Quibi to deflect from the issue at hand. “The irrelevance of Quibi’s focus on personal matters in order to put forward a false narrative about Elliott’s role related to this case demonstrates Quibi’s reluctance to engage forthrightly on the actual underlying legal issues,” said Richard Zabel, Elliott’s general counsel and chief legal officer.

“Elliott decided to finance this litigation because we strongly believe that Eko will prevail in its claim that Quibi stole its valuable intellectual property.”

An Elliott spokesman declined to comment on the personal life of Singer, a high-powered and notoriously private financier and political donor worth an estimated $3.6 billion, according to Forbes.

A source familiar with the matter told The Post that the CEO’s relationship with Kassel predates the court battle between Quibi and Eko saga. The couple has been in a committed romantic relationship for roughly a decade, and their relationship is known to people at Elliott, this person said.

As The Post exclusively reported last year, Quibi has taken the unusual route of fighting the patent lawsuit by hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on Singer and Eko founder Yoni Bloch.

Ex-Eko employees who have fielded calls from Quibi’s private eyes said the investigators focused not on the technology but on Bloch’s management style, Eko’s work culture and internal disputes that might be brewing beneath the surface.

Eko sued Quibi in March 2020 over the app’s “turnstyle” feature, which allowed viewers to play different videos depending on how they are holding their phone — vertically or horizontally. Eko claimed the feature infringed on its technology, which Quibi has denied.

Quibi launched in April during the height of the pandemic only to shutter six months later, marking Hollywood’s biggest flop in recent memory.

But the lawsuit continues to wind its way through the court and Singer’s Elliot has been bankrolling the suit for Eko, which gave the hedge fund an equity stake.

“Discovery will reveal whether Elliott’s stated confidence in Eko’s claims is based on evidence or based on fabrication and a personal favor,” Quibi’s filing said.

Quibi argued to subpoena Singer and Kassel in a filing made earlier this week. Elliott has opposed those efforts.

The tit-for-tat offers a rare glimpse into Singer’s personal life. Professionally, he is known for going to extreme lengths to make good on his investments, including the time in 2012 when Elliott seized an historic Argentinian naval vessel in an effort to recoup some $600 million in bonds he purchased as Argentina was headed for default in 2001.

Elliott is also a major player in what’s known as litigation finance, or funding lawsuits in order to collect on the winnings.

Katzenberg and Quibi partner Meg Whitman raised $1.75 billion from investors to jumpstart Quibi, which offered highly produced shows under 10 minutes targeted at on-the-go consumers. Quibi attracted stars such as Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lopez and Kevin Hart for its short-form episodes, as well as investments from the likes of Disney and NBCUniversal.

But it launched during the pandemic, when people stopped commuting or even waiting in line for coffee as often as before. The service struggled to gain viewers and advertisers began looking to defer payments.

The app sold its content library to video-streaming company Roku for less than $100 million last month.

Main Source link