According to Mr. Carter, a longtime fan of Creem, Mr. Matheu had been trying to convince him to go halves on the license for a while. He’d been hesitant until Mr. Matheu told him that Mr. Kramer—who was, after all, the son of the magazine’s founder—was thinking of getting involved. Mr. Kramer’s involvement made Mr. Carter reconsider, and the three men came to an agreement that spring. The terms of that agreement, according to the lawsuit, were that Mr. Carter and Mr. Kramer would put in around $30,000 each in order to help Mr. Matheu buy the license, and that in exchange, Mr. Matheu would make them both equal partners in the company. As Mr. Kramer and Mr. Carter say they understood it, each of them would own a 30 percent stake in Creem Media, and the remaining 10 percent would belong to Ken Kulpa, a friend of Mr. Matheu’s who’d been helping him run the company since 2001.
Mr. Carter and Mr. Kramer both say the agreement was a rush job because of the time constraints imposed by Mr. Levitt, and as a result, no contract was drawn up before money was exchanged, and the deal was essentially made on a handshake.
Not long after the deal with Mr. Levitt went through, Mr. Carter and Mr. Kramer got a couple of troubling e-mails, one from Mr. Kulpa and one from a man named Jason Turner. Both of them claimed to be members of the Creem Media Inc. board of directors, and said that because Mr. Matheu had not consulted them about the deal, they would not honor it.
Mr. Kramer and Mr. Carter say they asked Mr. Matheu to explain himself. After about six months of back and forth, Mr. Matheu allegedly stopped responding to e-mails. In December, Mr. Kramer and Mr. Carter filed their lawsuit.
Asked about the charges last week, Mr. Matheu said he never told Mr. Kramer and Mr. Carter they would get 30 percent of the company in exchange for their contributions.
“We were looking at the possibility of how they could be invol
ved and in what capacity, and that never came into fruition and we never finalized anything,” Mr. Matheu said. “They wanted a lot more than there was to have.”
Mr. Matheu’s lawyer elaborated: “Our counter, and what we’ve said in court, is that Creem Media Inc. was a Nevada corporation with three board members, whose bylaws state, in effect, that you need a majority of board members to affect a management decision. … At best, J.J. and Chris Carter have an ultra viris offer from one member of the corporation. At worst, what they have is a he-said-she-said that he made an offer and they accepted it.”
Mr. Matheu’s lawyer said Mr. Carter and Mr. Kramer—who is trained in corporate law—should have known that Mr. Matheu did not have the unilateral authority to sell them a majority holding in the company without first clearing it with Mr. Kulpa and Mr. Turner.
It’s unclear, in light of this, what Mr. Matheu told Mr. Kramer and Mr. Carter they were buying for their $60,000.
Fast-forward to October 2007, when Mr. Kramer came across an advertisement on Amazon.com for a Creem book co-written by Mr. Matheu to be published by HarperCollins that month.
Mr. Kramer called his lawyer and successfully filed for an injunction to stop the book from going to press. When that happened, Mr. Kramer said, he was invited to the HarperCollins offices by an editor there to take a look at the book, in case he liked it enough to allow it to go forward.
That was wishful thinking: Mr. Kramer saw the book as a deceptive revision of the magazine’s history that not only overstated Mr. Matheu’s involvement but marginalized some of the people who had made it what it was.
At that point, HarperCollins came forward and told the court that they had already printed thousands of copies of the book and stood to lose a significant sum of money if it was pulled. As a result, the injunction was lifted, and the book came out as planned.
But for Mr. Kramer, there was always something else at stake. “This whole endeavor for me from the get-go was sort of a bridge to reconnect with my father, who I didn’t really get to know,” he told The Observer. “To have somebody try to take that from me and in the manner in which he’s attempting to do—that is absolutely maddening.”