Ticketing Firm Set for Courtroom Battle Against Fyre Festival
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Paula Parisi | Variety.com
Boston-based ticketing firm Tablelist has pulled up a seat at the feast of Fyre Festival lawsuits, alleging fraud and seeking more than $3.5 million in money it owes customers for refunds on 8,000 tickets, plus additional millions for damage to its reputation and future earnings.
“Fyre Festival organizers completely left us hanging out to dry as the middleman between this disastrous event and our ticketholders,” Tablelist CEO Julian Jung said. “All the money sits with Fyre, and we’re fighting back to get those funds to our customers, where they belong.”
The suit, filed May 16 in Suffolk County Superior Court, Boston, is the first known instance of a Fyre Media investor personally named as a defendant, with Carola Jain, wife of hedge fund manager Bob Jain, listed alongside Billy McFarland, Jeffrey Atkins (Ja Rule) and Fyre Media and company marketing officer Grant Margolin.
According to Bloomberg, Jain pumped $4 million into Fyre. The Tablelist suit positions Jain as “an active participant in the defendants’ scam,” involved in day-to-day spin control as the festival deteriorated. This including Jain allegedly emailing ticketholders to inform them that they wouldn’t be getting the air-conditioned accommodations advertised, under instruction by Margolin to “offer them exclusive access to the event’s influencers [Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, etc.] as recompense.” Jain is described as interacting on behalf of Fyre with Tablelist on “phone calls, in emails, text messages and instant messages frequently from January through April 2017.”
On May 8 in Federal Court for the Central District of California, attorney Mark Geragos entered an amended pleading to his $100 million class-action suit that included “undisclosed investors 1-15.” (Interestingly the plaintiff in the Geragos suit is named Daniel Jung, but two are not related.)
As new reports surface daily as to the extent of Fyre’s overextension, litigants are looking for deep pockets from which to recoup funds, and Jain, whose husband’s Millennium Management oversees $35 billion in assets, fits the bill. Tablelist, a startup company the suit contends was once valued at $18 million, “is at risk of losing it all due to defendants’ conduct.”
Jung claims Tablelist passed “nearly every dollar” of ticket sales funds to the Fyre Festival organizers, retaining only 10% in escrow against what Tablelist thought would be a limited number of refund requests, as well as its service fee.
The suit states that Jung was shown documentation projecting “over 80,000 tickets would be sold and that the Fyre Festival would bring in $190 million in revenue.” Event organizers presented Tablelist with numerous assurances the festival would be well-organized and well-funded luxury event, pointing to high-profile celebrity endorsements, headlining musical acts, significant sponsorship deals, and a competitive bid process for the ticketing vendor role, according to the complaint.
After the event’s cancellation, Tablelist immediately demanded that Fyre Media return the millions of dollars they had received through ticket sales, the complaint states. Despite announcing that “all festivalgoers this year will be refunded in full,” festival organizers never remitted a penny to Tablelist to pass along to consumers, according to the suit. Ticket purchasers are now pursuing millions of dollars in chargebacks — working through their credit card companies to receive refunds – which vastly exceed the depleted escrow fund.
Jung’s suit said he expressed early concern about possible refunds if the event were not to go forward, or other disaster, requesting increased escrow, and was told in an email from McFarland, “This is not the way we are able to operate when we have some of the largest players in the world involved in the festival.”
According to Jung’s suit, McFarland alluded to the “people we paid $10mm to for the island, or the engineer that’s putting in $5mm of infrastructure, or to Drake, Blink-182, and the 40 other artists that we’re committing $10mm, or to Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne, who’ve dropped their schedules to make themselves the face of Fyre Festival.” With the exception of the now-infamous social media efforts of Jenner and Delevingne, the rest either never existed or never materialized.
“Like so many other companies, investors and endorsers, Tablelist – and our customers – are victims of a fraud,” Jung said, detailing in his complaint an intentional, “highly orchestrated scheme” by Fyre and its principals to enrich themselves at the expense of others.
Since the Fyre Festival’s spectacular failure, Tablelist, a startup founded in 2013, has had to lay off 40% of its workforce on the consumer side of its business while it focuses on the litigation to do right by its customers, and Jung asserts that the company is in danger of being incinerated by the Fyre fallout.
Lawyers for McFarland and Fyre Media have not responded to inquiries. A representative for Jain had no comment.