Few celebrities were at such a pinnacle of popularity in 2016 as Kevin Hart. Which is no doubt why mobile app developer Stand Up Digital wanted to team up with Hart to release “Gold Ambush,” a multiplayer game featuring both Hart and his wife and children as playable characters.
And few celebrity images took such a precipitous fall as Hart’s when he tearfully revealed an affair on his Instagram account in September 2017, just days before Gold Ambush’s planned release. That admission, according to a lawsuit filed by Stand Up, “crippled the efficacy of Gold Ambush, completely destroyed all of Stand Up’s pre-launch monetary commitments, shuttered the credibility of the game as a family-oriented entertainment … and nullified the future profitability of the game.” The company is looking for over $7 million in damages.
Errors in Judgment
Stand Up claims it began developing the game with the help of Hart and his business partner Wayne Brown in 2016. Gold Ambush was allegedly “the first mainstream online mobile game to feature both runner and strategy game styles,” and “the first combined maze running and city building strategy game on the entire market.” Hart was eventually elected to Stand Up’s board of directors and received a 20 percent stake in the company. His likeness was going to be the main online character for players to use, and his wife and two children were also playable characters in the game.
That family-friendly appeal took quite the hit on September 16, 2017, when Hart posted a recording of himself on Instagram, admitting he made “an error of judgment” when having an extramarital affair. Hart allegedly posted the admission to thwart on-going extortion attempts, and Stand Up claims his failure to advise and warn them about his impending announcement breached his fiduciary duties the company:
In the weeks that followed Hart’s Instagram announcement, it became clear that he and Brown had known of the extortion attempt long before the September 18, 2017 launch of Gold Ambush. By failing to inform Stand Up of the situation so that Stand Up could have taken steps to delay the launch and potentially retool the game, Hart willfully violated his fiduciary duties of loyalty, care, and duty to disclose harmful information to Stand Up under Virginia statutory and common law standards for corporate directors. As Hart’s business manager with full knowledge of the scandal, the extortion, and the impact such failure to disclose would have on Stand Up, Brown aided and abetted Hart’s breach of fiduciary duties.
Refusal to Communicate
Not only did Hart and Brown fail to warn Stand Up prior to the Instagram revelations, the company claims they “utterly refused to communicate with Stand Up in any respect following the September 16 Instagram announcement for over a week, despite repeated attempts by Stand Up to call, email and text Hart and Brown and Hart’s other representatives.”
According to the lawsuit, Stand Up sank about $1.24 million into the game’s development, including:
- $678,000 in developer costs;
- $351,000 in promotion and public relations expenses;
- $33,000 in travel and entertainment expenses;
- $41,000 in animation development;
- $74,000 in consulting expenses; and
- $20,000 in office expenses, and other related expenses.
Stand Up is looking for those costs back, along with another $6 million in lost profits and “all reasonable attorney’s fees.”