Written by: Brent Lang | The Wrap
Omar Amanat may be the most powerful person in Hollywood you’ve never heard of.
The press-shy investor filed a libel lawsuit last week against four British publications for calling him an “impostor.”
But he’s no impostor; Amanat controls 20 percent of Peak Group Holdings, the biggest shareholder in Summit Entertainment, according to documents obtained by TheWrap.
Those documents further show that Amanat has huge power at the independent film studio.
According to the lawsuit and related ownership agreements, Amanat can block any decision by Summit’s board of directors, of which he is not a member.
“He can block substantially all material actions or votes with respect to Summit simply by withholding his written consent,” according to the lawsuit, which TheWrap obtained in full.
It continues: “Without all four Peak appointed Summit Class A directors’ unanimous written consent, Summit cannot undertake any of the following important strategic or basic corporate decisions: a merger, acquisition, joint venture or strategic transaction….”
The problem: Amanat is now a powerful figure in Summit with an ax to grind, able to torpedo everything from mergers to expenditures.
In fact, TheWrap has learned that Amanat considered selling his stake in Peak last year to corporate raider Carl Icahn after the scandal erupted.
He has since calmed, and now Amanat stands to gain tens of millions of dollars in dividends from the $750 million refinancing at the studio that closed last week.
In the suit filed in London’s High Court, Amanat is seeking at least 7.5 million pounds plus unspecified damages to reputation against news organizations, including Express Newspapers, the publisher of OK! and WENN, for reports saying that he lied about his connection to the studio to host a charity event with the stars of the hit film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
“It basically was the worst thing to be called as a businessman, to be falsely labelled an impostor. It was an impossible thing to defend, and it had a cascade effect that was pretty crippling,” Amanat told TheWrap.
In the backlash that followed Amanat says he lost several multi-million-dollar entertainment deals, including a $4 million agreement to provide technological assistance to the British TV show “X-Factor.”
Not even a note from Summit’s CEO, Rob Friedman, and president, Patrick Wachsberger, acknowledging that Amanat was a former board member and was authorized to host the “New Moon” screening was enough to force the publications to print corrections.
Prior to his Hollywood ventures, Amanat is best known for having co-founded CyberTrader and Tradescape, which were sold to Charles Schwab and eTrade for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Amanat stepped down as a member of Summit’s board in 2008, but his designate still requires his written consent to approve any mergers, acquisitions or major decisions that the studio decides to undertake.
Further strengthening Amanat’s hand, the investment group’s ownership agreement shows that Peak’s remaining board members have agreed to have all of their designees vote as a unanimous block.
Much like the United Nations Security Council, Amanat or any of the four Peak board members can stop anything from a raise for the studio’s leadership, to bonuses, to even whether Summit’s CEO and chairman are kept on after their deals come up.
That could be dangerous. For the past year, relations between Amanat and Summit have grown bumpy. At the same time that Summit was orchestrating a $750 million refinancing agreement, Amanat became the center of a full-blown scandal involving a screening he hosted in New York City in November 2010 in order to raise money for charity.
When a note from Summit’s counsel — warning the investor that he was not a direct shareholder in the company or involved in any way with the business and operations of Summit — found its way to Deadline.com, Amanat was savaged by the English tabloids.
“When the letter leaked it was such a gross mischaracterization in the way it implied that I had nothing to do with the company that I was minutes away from selling the control of my stake,” Amanat told TheWrap. Amanat would not confirm that he intended to sell to Icahn.
To set the record straight, Amanat has filed the terms of Peak’s ownership agreement and the terms of Summit’s 2007 ownership agreement alongside the libel suit.
That agreement shows how wildly profitable Summit has been for its initial investors.
Because Peak owns 90 percent of Summit’s Class A shares, it gets 10 percent preferred return on the amount of money the company initially invested. That means that Peak’s shareholders will get $150 million from the $200 million dividend the studio will dispense as part of its recent refinancing, according to an individual with knowledge of the deal.
In part, because his Summit investment seems to be making good money, Amanat does not seem inclined to mess with a good thing.
“I am happy with how they are progressing. A rule of thumb is that the best investors focus on losers, and the winners take care of themselves. If Summit was in trouble it would command more of my attention,” Amanat said.
A Summit spokesman declined to comment.