Body Blow To THQ and JAKKS!

Powerhouse brand World Wrestling Entertainment has filed a lawsuit against the publisher of its popular wrestling games, THQ, asking the courts to nullify its licence to produce WWE games.

The lawsuit accuses THQ and JAKKS Pacific amongst others, of 14 counts of racketeering, bribery, money laundering and other similar charges. Other defendants named in the lawsuit include former WWE licensing agent Stanley Shenker & Associates (SSAI), and Bell Licensing, a company established by former WWE senior vice president of licensing and merchandising, James Bell.

The suit alleges that in 1998 Bell conspired with SSAI to accept over $100, 000 worth of bribes from JAKKS Pacific and use Bell’s position as licensing agent to persuade the WWE to award its games license to JAKKS, after its earlier agreement with Acclaim expired.

Although at the time THQ and Activision submitted ‘clearly superior’ deals, both were rejected. It’s alleged that Bell and SSAI didn’t submit these proposals, and instead advised JAKKS to submit a far greater offer. JAKKS, which did not have a video game division at the time, then is alleged to have solicited THQ to become a Joint Venture partner.

We very much regret having to take this action today,” said Linda McMahon, chief executive officer of WWE. “But we regret even more the facts and circumstances which have compelled us to do so, ” she added. “WWE’s intellectual property is a valuable asset of the company, and we believe the actions taken today are necessary to preserve the integrity of our licensing process.”

THQ has been quick to distance itself from the lawsuit, claiming that it remains unaware of any wrong doings by JAKKS Pacific,

THQ is committed to preserving its rights under the video game licence with the WWE,” offered a company statement. “THQ believes the WWE is pleased with the manner in which THQ has managed their brand in the video game category. As THQ is not directly accused of any wrong doing in the complaint – rather the complaint alleges wrongdoing on the part of JAKKS Pacific and others of which THQ was and is unaware – THQ is not in a position to comment on these allegations. In any event, either there is no basis for terminating the video game licence, or THQ expects to be made whole by those whose conduct is eventually found to be unlawful. THQ intends to vigorously protect and pursue its rights, if necessary.”