Everyone goes through failures in life. There is this propaganda about success that you only have it because of luck. That is not true, and Jordan Matthews is proof of that. Jordan is a business trial lawyer and litigator with experience in the entertainment and business industry. He is also the author of his upcoming book, Failure: When You Have Nothing, You Have Everything. Jordan started his career as an actor but later realized that he could be so much more. Join John Solleder as he talks to Jordan Matthews about his early childhood trauma to going into law in this two-part episode. Learn how to get out there and be ready to fail because only through pain can you find success.
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Jordan Matthews, Failure: When You Have Nothing, You Have Everything, Part 1
I am going to interview somebody who I have known almost my entire life. Mr. Jordan Matthews from California, how are you?
I’m doing great, John. Thanks for having me. I remember you threw me on my mother’s bed when I was four years old. It is interesting how life unfolds. It is good to connect.
I remember back then, your mom and I were working together and came to Pittsburgh on a regular basis. One day I said to your mom, “Does Jordan been to a baseball game yet?” She was like, “No.” I go, “What about a Pirates game tonight?” We did. We went to the Pirates game. We ate ice cream and all stuff. We had a lot of fun that night.
I wish I could say I remembered every detail.
You were a little young. It is probably more fun for me than it was.
You are painting the picture for me of every detail I should remember. I remember you coming in for a judo competition. I remember driving over to this area where you had that because you were big into judo, power-lifting, and all that stuff. It is amazing how time flies because I have children now. It is ironic that you say that because we are going to talk about your life and one of the parallels that we have. My dad had died on the Saturday morning before that tournament. It was the national tournament I had trained for. I was ready to compete and have my fights. I knew my dad was dying, but unfortunately, he passed away that Saturday. We buried him on a Tuesday.
I had to weigh in on Thursday, and I was going to stay at your mom’s house. She was nice enough to invite me. My dad died. I go through all this stuff, and it is like, “Do I even go?” I had said to myself, “You know what my father would say. The show must go on. You trained, and you are ready. Get your butt on the plane and go.” I did. I got the medals here somewhere. I do not know where in this messy office of mine, but I competed. I medaled in both the divisions that I fought in that weekend all those years ago. That was 1992. I was younger than you are now. Life does go by.
You have been an amazing career. I stand back sometimes and watch what you are doing with your life and your family, but your business career is overwhelming on what you have been doing the last few years. Let me tell people a little bit about you, and I’m going to read a little bit. Jordan, as we said earlier, he is a business trial lawyer. He is a litigator. He did a tremendous amount in the entertainment industry, as well as in the business community.
He serves his lead counsel on multiple matters throughout the country. He is actively litigating matters in California, Nevada, and Massachusetts. He handles matters in federal and state courts and also experiences handling administrative proceedings with the California Labor Commission. He argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of the US court of appeals.
He is involved in litigations covered by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, and other publications. He has been involved with some tremendously large and successful cases that I was reading about. He graduated from Pepperdine University in California. I have a good friend, John Bolson in Montreal, who is a Pepperdine grad as well. The family owns a Montreal Canadiens, and the son is a kicker with the Green Bay Packers now. Pepperdine produced some pretty good graduates.In life, there's almost this propaganda around success. People have this idea that if you're successful, it's only because of luck. Click To Tweet
Jordan has been involved in commercial litigation trials and quite a bit in the entertainment world. I know you were involved in a major case that you may or may not be able to say a whole lot about in the resort industry involving the Wind Resort Company and Casino, etc. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Believe me, when I say he is getting started, he is only in his 30s, and he has already done a tremendous amount. You were in a movie a number of years ago as an actor. I remember that. I have got a copy of it and doing all things. Welcome to the show, first of all.
Thank you very much. It is good to connect. It has been a while, but thanks for having me.
You have got a book coming out shortly Failure: When You Have Nothing, You Have Everything. It is a compelling title. Let’s talk about it.
There are some central themes there. You talked about the loss of your father. The basic thing is that I have found that there is almost this propaganda around success in life. People have this idea that if you are successful, either it is some luck. I disliked that term luck. I do not know what expectation maybe comes with it.
We all have things, but I have experienced failure and crushing defeat to the point of near bankruptcy, moving out of homes, turning in cars, the death of family members, losing businesses, and lawsuits at a high level. By the time I was about 27, I had put together about $600 million in financing deals in the entertainment space. This was after I raised several million for film in the middle of the financial crisis. That imploded, and I was in litigation because of a Russian distributor who created piracy of the movie. It led to litigation.
It is a much larger story, but I put together all of these incredible deals. I had about $4.5 million that I put together in terms of the debt that I had leveraged personal guarantees. I was doing deals with CEOs of public studios, and all the NDAs were signed. There are public companies and some private companies.
I got stuck in my business partner’s divorce, and that turned into a huge mess publicly. There was a lot that went on, and I had a family at the time. I had a wife, and my daughter had been born. I had a reset, restart, and went to law school. A lot of things unfolded from there. The point is I do not necessarily know where you want to go with it.
Let me stop here for a second. Let’s go through some of these things point by point because failure teaches us so much about life. It is easy when everything is going well in life to coast. When we fail, we get to step back and analyze what happened. Starting out, you are a young guy. You go off to college, and your dad passes away three weeks after. Is that correct?
I was at Ohio State at the time, and they are on a quarter system. They started a little bit later. I left for college either around September 21st or 22nd of 2003. He passed away on October 9th, 2003.
He was a young guy. I knew your dad a little bit, met him a couple of times. That had to be not only earth-shaking for you, but it also had to be one of those compelling moments in your life where you said, “What am I going to do with my life now? I have watched my dad’s life, watched my mom’s life. What am I going to do now? My dad is gone.” That support system is gone. You are a young guy. You are just starting your education. 1 of the 2 most important people at that point in your life is gone. How did you work through that?
It took years, but honestly, it was the lead-up. I tell this story. There are some layers here. I will start with one story. It is a pretty traumatic story, but so much gold came out of it. I found that a lot of pain and being able to handle pain and pressure is something that I think is necessary in order to have success. I do not mean success from the perspective of money, but meaning and living a full life.
I remember when I was about seventeen, he was going through a second divorce from my stepmother at the time. They had a tumultuous situation. She was claiming that he was hitting her. I do not know the evidence of that. I knew his character. I did not think that that occurred, but I was not there. She called the police on him and threw him in jail. This happened a couple of times.
They were going through a separation divorce, and his birthday was December 23rd of the year. He was relapsing at the time because he was an alcoholic. He was a great guy, a good soul, but he could not control that. He was the type of person who was more introverted. His mind was complex. He thought a lot, but he also had a switch that could not turn off.
I read a book about that after he passed away called The Craving Brain, that explained it from a chemical perspective a little bit better. He was supposed to go to rehab, and like any good addict or whatever, he talked his way out of it. He was supposed to go somewhere where he would be inpatient for weeks. I had found out that he was going to a place that was closer, maybe inpatient, outpatient, or whatever, but nevertheless, that did not occur. He talked his way into staying at my stepmother’s house over the holidays. She left to go visit her family.
On his birthday, I remember calling him earlier that day, and I said, “I was going to stop by and drop him off for a present.” My mother at the time would off go get a gift for him, for me. It was a nice sweater. She knew what he liked and all that stuff. I called him earlier. I told him I was going to stop by, and we lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is December and cold. It gets darker earlier.
Maybe around a little after 5:00, I go and I drive over to his house. As I pulled up, he lived in like a Midwestern duplex. My mother had to do well at that point. After watching her struggle and fight for several years, she bought the home of her dreams, and he was living fine, but it was a normal middle-class setting. A midwestern duplex is a house that is split into.
I drive over, and it is three levels. I drive over, and as I pull up, I call him, and he does not pick up, but I see that the front door is ajar, and I see that there is a light on the second floor. I call him again, and he is not picking up. I had a bad feeling, and I decided. I’m like, “I’m not going in.” I left. At the time, earlier in my life, I had been the valedictorian. I was working my butt off. I was miserable, but I worked hard. With what I was experiencing with him, I was going off in a different direction. I was associating with people who are not probably the best people.
I go to my friend’s house and which is five minutes away. I’m there for ten minutes and my phone rings. It is my dad. He sounds groggy like he just woke up. No one knew. My friends did not know what was going on. I took him to detox. My after-school activity was different than what a lot of my other friends were going through or experiencing with going to practice. They are going to dinner with their family and whatever.
I said to my dad, “Do you want me to come back? I stopped by. I did not come in, but I called.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay.” I got my stuff. I got out of my car. I drove over. Five minutes later, I was at his house, and I pulled up. He is outside. He is standing. There are cement steps and all that stuff, but he is standing at the door. It is dark. He is standing in a bathrobe, smoking a cigarette. I get out of my car.
At that time, I had almost developed a bit of a sociopathic coldness. I was becoming used to trauma. It was a bit of a defense mechanism. I get out of my car, pop the trunk, get the present out, and I start walking up the stairs. There are fifteen cement stairs, and there is this lawn, this little hill. I walk up and get to the top of that. There are about 4 or 5 stairs to go to the porch.Being able to handle pain and pressure is needed to have success, not just in money but in living a very full life. Click To Tweet
I walk up, and right as I get to the porch, he steps into the light. I look at him, and he is covered head to toe in blood. I look at him, and I think, “What happened to you?” My first thought is, “Who beat you in jail?” I split-second thought. I’m like, “They would never release him like that.” He looks at me deadpan. He seems oblivious to it. He starts walking into the house, and he is sauntering from left to right and off-balance. He sits down in the chair. I sit down on a couch across from him. I look at him.
I was almost becoming a bit of a father in that experience and growing up quickly with those experiences. We all have our own different traumas and experiences. I said to him, “You have been drinking.” He said, “No.” I said, “Okay.” I knew the answer. I got up, and I started walking around the house. Quite frankly, it looked like a murder scene.
There was blood everywhere throughout the house because he had a scalp wound. If you have a scalp wound, you will bleed a lot. He was drinking probably about a liter of hard alcohol a day, and he would pass out. I assume he probably drank what he drank and probably fell down the stairs and cracked his head open or something like that.
There is blood all over the kitchen. I go upstairs, and there is blood all over the carpet. I have this realization, thankfully, that I’m like, “I can’t touch him.” When I was six months of age and my parents divorced, he got drunk and left on a motorcycle. An hour later, he was life-flighted in, and he got hit by a car. They did a blood transfusion. In those days, they did not screen the same way, and he caught hepatitis C. All of a sudden, I realized and I was like, “I can’t touch you.” I’m going through the house to try to find gloves, and I can’t find them.
I look at him, and I say, “I’m going to go to my mother’s house. I’m going to go get gloves. I will be right back. Do not close the door.” I leave, I go to my mother’s house, 5 to 10 minutes away max. I walk in, and she is on the phone. She is doing business. She is a single mother. She is doing whatever she has to do as a business owner, successful entrepreneur, and single mother.
At that time, I had gotten good at containing whatever I had to deal with. She was not any of the wiser at the time. I walk in, go into the kitchen, go under the sink, get these pair of yellow gloves, walk outta the house, leave and go back to my dad’s house. Five minutes later, I get there, I look up and the door is closed. It is locked. He locked me out.
At that point, it is like, “I do not know what has happened to you.” There were a lot of experiences like that, but there was another much bigger experience that he gave me that was profound. This is a continuation if you want to go into it. A couple of weeks or months, I’m not sure the exact date before I left for college. I was sitting in his house. He may have been detoxing. I do not know what was going on specifically. I would go into his house, and he had switched from hard alcohol to beer. I would go, and there will be garbage bags full of beer cans. He is buying cases of beer, drinking all day, wasn’t showering, all that stuff.
I was sitting there, and I remember he asked me, “What do you want to do?” He did not ask me in any judgemental way. It was not like, “What do you want to do with your life? I have some expectation or whatever.” It was more like, “What do you want to do?” I think he had, in some way, known that I had whatever potential he felt that I had, but maybe I was distracted with all of this stuff.
I was going to Ohio State, which was a good school. I was fine. He would have asked anyone probably 2 or 3 years earlier, “Where I was going to go?” They would be like, “I’m going to go to Harvard.” Something like that. My grades had fallen because of what I was dealing with. Thank God I did not go to Harvard. I would have been miserable.
I responded to him, and I said, “I was thinking of owning a magazine company.” I was entrepreneurial, and I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do, but that is what came to mind. He had this pause like he was taking that in. A couple of weeks later, we have this other conversation, and he tells me, “When you go to college, your life is going to change. You are going to make new friends. You are going to get in relationships and all that stuff.”
At that point, everyone, honestly, aside from my mother and my father’s older sister, largely had deserted him in life and myself. I was taking care of him day to day. His older sister lived in New York. My mother was around, but I was becoming more of a caretaker. Integrity and loyalty are big things for me. I believe that you show up when no one else will. That is what you do.
A lot of that was reinforced by my mother. That is her character and whatnot. I said, “No, I will call you every day. I will come back every weekend.” I remember vividly the day I left for college. I had a tough experience with him, but I left for college. I called him as much as I could. Sometimes I went to voicemail. Sometimes I got him, and within about two and a half weeks later, I got a call in my dorm room, and it was my mother.
My suitemate, like my roommate, we had a couple of people there, picked up the phone. I could tell that he was talking to her, but he will not give me the phone. I knew what it was. I said, “Give me the phone.” I took it, and my mother was on the other line. She was crying. I coldly said, “Is he gone?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Come pick me up.” I left and went home that weekend. We buried him. I cried my eyes out. I came back. I gained 35 or 40 pounds in six weeks. I started going through that process.
At that time, it was a triggering moment. It was a major trigger because, at that point, I was going through the motions. I was like, “I’m going to go major in Business. I’m going to major in Marketing.” All of a sudden, I said, “My family had been to pursue a career as an actor because of some prior experience I had in going to New York.” I was moving away from that. That loss me in a place of, I didn’t understand it at the time, but I felt like, “What do I have to lose? This is not working. I’m done with this. I’m leaving.” It took several years because I was trying to transfer and all that stuff to NYU.
I ended up going to this observatory. It took several years. I moved to New York. I’m turning 21 at the time. I have spent a year there. It has been a crazy year. I moved out to LA in 2006. The whole point of that is within about a year and a half. I met a girl. It is a good relationship, but I went through a bad breakup.
I developed this whole marketing campaign, building a career as an actor. I made this producer who had a project that did not have any money. I got sick of being attached to projects that were never going to go. Everyone kept telling me, “We are going to shoot this and whatever.” Everyone is a lot of crap. I started to realize a lot of these people did not have any money. I said, “I can figure this out.”
The beginning of how that happened was crazy. I decided I was going to raise the capital. It was in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008 when the stock market and real estate were collapsing. Raising the money, getting margining bond accounts, getting margin calls, personal guarantees, maxing everything out, maxing on my credit, all this stuff.
The point of that was I ended up going into this yoga class, and I was doing a lot of meditation to try to stay in shape. It was a way to reset myself in the middle of a tremendous amount of chaos. Every day was a bomb going off. I remember doing this meditation. It is what they call vinyasa yoga. I’m spiritual, but I’m not a floating person. I’m scientific. I look at things logically, but I understand the layers of things.
If anyone understands how yoga works, they have this thing called Shavasana at the end. You are laying there. The meaning of it is you have done the work. Now you have to learn how to receive. In Western culture, it is like you push, and you do not know when to recharge yourself. This is that Eastern philosophy melted into it.
I’m laying there, and they have this gong meditation going on. I’m sweating, tired, got in the fight out of me for a moment perhaps, and I’m resting and breathing. It is dark. My eyes are closed. I start to see these little dots, these little white specs. As I’m conscious and present, these little specs and dots start to look like stars, like I’m in space and I’m seeing stars around me. All of a sudden, I start to see the outline of my father’s face. This is several years after he passed. It was vivid, and I could feel this weird, interesting, raw experience of whatever that was. I cracked, broke down into tears, and went through that.You should always show up when no one else will. Click To Tweet
A couple of weeks later, I have the same experience. At the end of a class, I’m laying there, and it is dark. I have the same vivid imagery, and it takes time to get there, but I’m conscious and aware of what is going on around me and have that experience. I broke down the tears, and I had this epiphany at that time. I looked at everything that was going on around me in terms of business and what I was doing. It was not business. It was like, “I was going to go after whatever I wanted to do.” I was going to do it, fail, succeed, and whatever was going to happen. It does not matter. The success was going out and doing it, not saying, “What if?”
I went back to the two conversations he had with me, “What do you want to do? When you leave, your life is going to change.” I responded and told him, “No.” I left, and he passed away. At that time, the epiphany and realization I had were, at least on some level. There are different layers to it, but what I felt was that he let go to let me live my life.
It was at that point that I legitimately lost the fear of anything. I lost the fear of death, losing any relationship around me, losing businesses, bankruptcy, losing money, embarrassment, whatever anything. I started to get into a place where every day was a constant exercise in making sure that I would do something that I was uncomfortable with, actualizing it, making it happen, and doing it.
It was an incredible gift. It was a painful experience that took years of therapy to get through, working on myself and figuring that out. Everyone experiences death and trauma. There are a lot of extreme things that happen with that. I jumped into even more extreme experiences in business, personal, and whatnot.
The feeling is that I knew that if I walked into a room, my physiology had experienced what I needed to experience to own that room in a humble way, meaning, “What are you going to do? Are you going to reject me? Are you going to say no to me? Are you going to throw me out of a company? The deal is going to implode me, whatever. Okay, fine. I will rebuild it. I would do whatever I had to do because I knew that I could take it at that point. I could take a hit.”
Let’s talk about some of those hits. You had an experience where you are raising $600 million. I can’t even get my head around and deal with that level of number, $600 million in financing. While this is all going down, your partner goes through an unexpected divorce, your daughter is born, and meantime, you got to be focused on raising $600 million. Tell me about the deal.
It was a failing forward thing that the initial film deal backed into that. What happened was, at the time in 2008, when I was having this experience, I met this director. He wanted to help raise the finance thing. At that point, I wanted to be an actor, and I needed to get my career going. I was in my early twenties. I’m like, “I got to get going. If it is not going to happen now, it will never happen.” He was a visual effects expert.
Visual effects are the most expensive thing to do and film production because it is post-production. If you go and see a tent pole movie, Spiderman, X-Men, Avatar, or whatever, it is the visual effects. That is the most expensive piece of that film. He had worked at Sony and Warner Bros. He had worked on movies like 300 and a lot of other projects. He had his own project, and he was going to be able to make it. It was still going to be expensive. It was still going to be millions. There was a lot of money that would be raised in connection with it setting up a production company and all these other things, but he could do it for less money.
He had told me at the time there was a guy named Thomas Ian Nicholas from American Pie who was attached to the film. He told me, “If we can’t do this project, I’m going to defect and do this other project with Tom, but I’m going to spend about 22 months in post-production.” I’m like, “That is two years. I got to get going now.
I told him I had a lawyer friend draft an MOU, a memorandum of understanding, that I was going to come up with financing in about 90 days for this project. I had no idea how I was going to do this or I was going to defect and do a lower-budgeted film. It was off. We went at that point. I ended up maxing out my credit to start putting the money together. He, at the time, ended up engaging an attorney in Matt Galsor, who represents James Cameron and Tom Cruise.
At the time, Cameron had Avatar coming out. He had a lot of leverage in our negotiations. I talked to this guy I found online about buying Nevada Shelf Corp and getting a DBA here in California. That turned into an absolute mess. He was almost advising me to engage in fraud. He was setting up all these bank accounts and trying to get loans based on cashflow and all this stuff. I did not go to get the loans. I was like, “This is not going to be how this will work.”
Part of this was through some family relationships and whatnot. I ended up getting involved in an oil deal where about $100,000 was initially put into this oil deal. I was supposed to net several million dollars that were going to be used. It was with the Bolivian oil ministry. This was all in 2008. We were passive investors, and that deal blew up. I remember getting all the news because stuff in the Wall Street Journal was coming out.
These guys were a pretty corrupt place. They delivered about $500,000 in a briefcase to some guy and got shot and killed. All these guys were getting indicted, and the entire deal blew up. The people we were working with moved this deal over to a deal in Saudi Arabia. The oil was lifted onto the ship called the Greenpoint and the oil was going to be sold to ConocoPhillips in Houston. It comes into the port of Houston.
I remember being all over like the news networks at that time, but the ship got pirated by Somali pirates. They paid the ransom off, but it went to Houston to be sold to ConocoPhillips, and Hurricane Ike hit. It blew up the entire port of Houston, and the entire deal went south. At that time, I put about $30,000 that was put together into lawyers, negotiating, operating agreements, setting up a production company, negotiating director agreements, employee crude deal memos, and all of this stuff. I had no idea how the whole deal imploded.
I’m sitting there negotiating, and I’m committing myself to a lot of money. I’m working through investor relationships and end up doing mortgages to real estate and margining a bond account. I have raised all the money and put it in the bank. The stock sell-off, stock markets are collapsing, real estate market is dropping out, and we go into production.
I was starring in the film, and no one knew that I was behind the scenes or doing any of that stuff. No one was supposed to know because of the imagery of what I’m talking about, the propaganda of things. Everyone had this expectation, “You are an actor. You must walk into a room. People must be amazed by you and want to put you in a thing.” I understand that, but that’s not how it works because it is a risky business.
It is a name or branding thing because people go, and people do things that are comfortable to them. They go see a Tom Cruise movie because they know Tom Cruise. They go to McDonald’s because they are used to going to McDonald’s. That is how the industry works. I remember even being on set one day and getting a margin call. We had to come up with $75,000 in 24 hours to pay off the margin because you can only have an 80% margin against the value of the bond account. Bonds were dropping in value for the first time since the great depression.
We had a bunch of messes like that, and I will fast forward, but we built this huge campaign and sold it to a bunch of international territories because you licensed it to international territories. We had this woman, Nadine de Barros, who was selling domestic rights, and she was at a company called Voltage. They were behind a movie called The Hurt Locker. That was coming out and also going for the Academy Awards.
Between her and between Matt representing Cameron and a lot of the other mechanisms that we had in play, we had built a tremendous amount of hype. We were leveraging it off of the success of Twilight and the way it was marketed. We were getting a lot of hype around it, but we had a screening at the Directors Guild, and Nadine flew to Italy to save some other film. The screening got messed up, and we moved over to Sony. I had put about three years of my life into this. I have driven myself to the point of near insanity in terms of putting everything in my life. Everything was maxed. It was a huge bet.
I remember going to the screen over at Sony, and I watched it. I saw the credits, saw my name, my face, all that stuff, and everything like that. I watched it. I had seen all the promotional things that were put together, but it was not a good film, and it was not what I had expected. We knew that it was not going to be a good film like it was not an Academy Award film, but I was containing a lot of stuff shooting it in terms of what happened.Go do whatever you want to do. Fail or success, it doesn't matter. Success is going out and doing it, not saying, “What if?” Click To Tweet
I was not in the best mindset or mind frame, but we knew that it was not about that. It was about the marketing of it and all this stuff. We had deals that would be $150,000 on a territory that would go down to $10,000 or would be rescinded. All of a sudden, I was in a situation where instead of getting this huge P&A commitment, a Prince and Advertising commitment from the studio, I had to leverage and raise more capital to do a theatrical four-wall release in New York and LA to release it theatrically and leverage that into a deal. I leveraged that into a deal with Lionsgate.
We were able to put that together, and we got a deal through Lionsgate and all that stuff. This was the constant failing forward. The film had bombed. I went from feeling I was going to be on the cover of GQ and, and whatever. Every major agency was going to call me. I remember getting lost on the way home. I could not remember how to get home. I came home that night eventually. I collapsed on my bed, and I passed out.
I passed out to the point of the pain was suffocating because I realized I was on the verge of losing everything. Everything I had in good faith worked for was about to collapse, and it was collapsing. I kept waking up in and out of waking up and going back to sleep and all that stuff. This happened for a couple of days until no one was calling me, and I realized, “I have to move.”
I started harassing my business manager, an accountant, for weeks until he told me that there was a client. He told me this because he wanted me to stop calling him. There was this former client of his, who was an executive. He was partnered with the Baldwins and partnered with Tracey Edmonds’ company. She was married to Eddie Murphy, and she had a production company. He was looking for talent. At that time, people still thought I was much more an actor.
I have a meeting with him where I am told, “Present yourself as the actor.” It meant if I walked into a room, I was not going to be myself. I knew all of the other stuff. I was doing all the deals. I was negotiating the distribution agreements and acquisition agreements. I was dealing with litigation. I was sending out demand letters with lawyers because the distributors and the sales agents were not paying, all of the stuff, running the company, running the business, and dealing with the vendors who are trying to overcharge and whatever.
I had this horrible meeting with him because I was pretending, “They found me. I want to be this guy.” I met him over at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, and it was a bad meeting. I remember giving him a look. He could tell my eye. It was like, “Do not mess with me. There is something more here. I shot him an email a day later. I said, “I have this other company that I set up. It was called Nine Everest Entertainment LLC.”
I called it Nine Everest because it was 9 for 9 lives, Everest for Mount Everest. Nine lives for Mount Everest. I told him I set up that company. I had optioned another film. We were working on producing a music video with this band, Helmet. It was similar to the Nine Inch Nails. They had done the video and the soundtrack for The Crow. We had done an output deal with some distributors.
He got the message that I knew a lot more. I hinted that I knew a little bit more than he expected, but I went through a lot with him. It took four months of setting meetings, ghosting me at meetings, and saying, “I’m flying to New York. I’m meeting with the NFL.” I would keep going after. He had me working with this guy. He was a New York Italian guy. He is his conciliar. He was another therapist that I went to because I gave him this look, and he realized there was something more to it. I was being told to pretend to be someone I was not.
I ended up working with this guy until I came forward with what I was doing. He was like, “You are mobile. You are not this actor. You could run a studio, a public company, or all this other stuff.” I was 26 at the time. I was dealing with a problem of I would go into rooms, and people would think that I was too big for the room. I did not care because the way my mother brought me up was like, “I do not care what people think.” There was an immense level of pressure getting thrown at me all the time and constant rejection.
I ended up forming a partnership with him. This guy’s name was Alex D’Andrea. What happened was this film that I had done all the theatrical four-wall release, leverage a deal with the studio. I think it was April 9th or April 10th of 2010 on IMDb where they do the message boards for films. They used to have a message board where people could comment.
I saw this comment about R5, and I had no idea what this thing was. This guy that I was going to partner with had me going back to acting classes. I thought I was going to be the biggest thing in the world. All of a sudden, I’m sitting in an acting class with everyone. I had felt. They were nice people. I went back to being in the bottom place. I’m crushed. What am I going to do? Am I going to sit there or keep moving? It was a suffocating level of defeat, but there was a pressing feeling in my heart and in my body at that time. I couldn’t sit down. I refuse to sit down.
I saw this thing about R5, and I had no idea what it was. I call my business partner and leave him a message because I don’t get ahold of him. I tell him about this thing. An hour later, I get frantic calls, cease and desist letters are going out everywhere. R5 is for region five. It is Russia. It was the Baltic states.
At that point, the film’s first release was supposed to be May 30th or May 31st, 2010, through Lionsgate UK. It was going to be released in the UK first. Our international sales agent had done a deal with this Russian company where they had a holdback clause. Before streaming and all that stuff, if they had a first release in the US, you could not release the movie until six months later because it was scheduling how a film would be released in different territories.
You send a master copy to a lab when you are doing QC or quality checks and deliverables. Perhaps because of the hype around it, someone took a copy, ripped it, put it on the internet, and powered the movie all over the world seven weeks before the movie. It destroyed the entire release. The numbers start skyrocketing on IMDb. It shoots above Avatar, Twilight, and Passion of the Christ. I remember taking screenshots of all this stuff.
We went the number one trail on iTunes and popularity and all this other stuff. I’m getting $0 from this because it is being stolen left and right. Fortunately, he had good relationships through this new relationship with my new business partner. He introduced me to a guy who was a major power hitter at a firm called Lavely & Singer, which is the preeminent entertainment litigation firm in the world. This guy is named Michael Holtz, who is one of my closest friends now.
He became my lawyer, and we filed a notice of arbitration because we had an arbitration provision. I spent about a year getting it to the point of mediating. He told me like a good lawyer. He was like, “This is a Russian company. You are going to spend about $200,000 litigating this for the next several years. Even if you get a judgment, they are going to transfer the money to Russia, or they are going to BK. Good luck collecting.”
I remember going to a media proposal. I had $6 million in damages that I had put together. I said, “I was willing to accept $1 million to walk. They wanted to hand me back the rights to the film. That was their offer. They walked out of the mediation after I spent $5,000 on my lawyer and mediator for the day. I flew to New York a couple of weeks later.
At that time, I was trying to get money in from all the sales to keep my new business going because I had formed a partnership with this new guy and we had a meeting around the same time that theatrical release was coming out. It was in June or July of the time. We go to this red carpet event, and we have sushi.
He was like, “I want to put together a $25 million film fund.” I said, “Let’s do $50 million. I wanted to do larger projects.” He was close with this guy named Scott Brink, who is a partner at a firm called Jeffer Mangels. Scott was partnered with Dan Grigsby. Dan is Kevin Costner’s attorney. Kevin does a lot. He takes more of a controlling position with his projects, producing them, financing, raising the money, and all that stuff. He knew the ins and outs of it. That was the basis of it.
I took a settlement in that first project because I was putting together a $50 million raise at the time and working with investors, flying, meeting with billionaires, and all of this stuff. I was like, “I’m going to have to take a settlement because I will close out the losses by raising this $50 million. There were two major companies at the time. They were heavy hitters.You can put together minor deals just by using your network. Click To Tweet
There was a company called Legendary Entertainment, which was behind the movie, The Hangovers, the relaunch of The Batman franchise that was successful. They put together about $500 million initially to do slate financing deals with Warner Bros. They would co-finance about half the budget, 25% to 50% of the production budget.
The other company was a company called Relativity Media. They started by forming these funds called Gun Hill Road. There were two different entities that were largely started by Brian Kavanagh. In 2005, he raised about $500 billion through Wall Street so that Marvel could start producing their own concept because before, they only had deals with Sony. They would license out X-Men or Spider-Man to Sony or Fox. That is how they did the movie. Their first major hit was Ironman.
Ryan had put the money together for that. I said to my agent at the time, “That is what I want to do. I want a studio.” I initially wanted to put together the slate financing to get access to the larger films. The tent pole movie releases, the big blockbusters. That is not an easy task. Setting those meetings was questionable because we had smaller productions, where we were going to put $5 million into a project or $1 million into a project or whatever.
I had projects with Dan Myrick, who directed The Blair Witch. I had a deal over at Mandalay. Peter Guber owns the Golden State Warriors. I had these minor deals that were being put together because I was constantly using my network and using these relationships to put this together. It unfolded into a much bigger deal.
Unfortunately, there were so much more there, but Alex was in litigation separately, which I knew about, but I did not know the full details. For several years, his wife was a soap star on The Bold and the Beautiful. I had given him a 25% stake in my company. We got to the point of not working well together and falling out.
At the same time, I had all of these deals that were pending. I was working with major banks, hedge funds, trusts, and investors in locking all this stuff together. His wife filed for divorce. I see it come out on TMZ and all this stuff. I get locked in it because he owns 25% of my company’s community property rights. I’m in California. She owns 12.5% of my company.
We are all represented by the same accountants. People start splitting off, and there is a whole war that is going on. People are fighting over their rights. My daughter was born on January 25th, 2013. He called me from Switzerland on January 28th, 2013, telling me that he had put together $30 million and wanted to renegotiate all of our deals. He sounded like he was intoxicated. We had a blowout of an argument.
I remember, the next day, he sent out an email with seventeen people copied. All the major agencies, our PR firms, our lawyers, he is trying to politically pull everyone away from me and saying that we are separating. This is what he did. He was very political and whatever. That did not work because I had formed relationships with all these other people. They trusted me. They knew that I was the guy who was delivering.
Nevertheless, I got stuck in it, and our financing ended up collapsing. I had millions in. Every major film in Hollywood coming through my company, I had access to almost every major project. It collapsed. My daughter has been born. Shortly after, we were expecting my son, and at that time, I was spending anywhere from a minimum of $25,000 to $75,000 a month living and getting operations done. I was burning a lot of cash at that time. It was my biggest problem. I do not quit.
The only thing that was unique, I remember my mother also would attest to this is, I probably expected I’m like, “I’m going to get married 4 or 5 times and have kids with a lot of different people.” Not because I want to, but because no one is going to be able to handle the swings that I’m handling every day. It is not comfortable at all.
When my daughter was born, I remember holding her, and I remember, as a father, realizing that I was going to be an introduction to a male in her life. I had spent several years at that time, mostly negotiating every day or litigating every day with good high-level lawyers. I was like, “I need to take these skills and become a lawyer, but I had to go to law school.” I had to finish my college degree and get my master’s in all this other stuff.
For one income for three years, I took out law school loans, took on hundreds of thousands of dollars and an extra debt, and rebuilt everything. I thought I had peaked. After I passed the bar within about 4 or 5 months, I ended up originating the main case against Steve Wynn and the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I started building everything from there. There are many different details and different things, but that is probably the answer to your question. A long-winded answer to your question.
Jordan, if we can, let’s do this in two parts for the readers because there are so much more. We are up to law school in this huge landmark case that you got yourself involved with almost right off the bat.
About Jordan Matthews
Jordan Matthews is a business trial lawyer and litigator with broad experience in the entertainment industry and business community. Mr. Matthews currently serves as lead counsel on multiple matters throughout the country and is actively litigating matters in California, Nevada and Pennsylvania. He handles matters in federal and state court and also has experience handling administrative proceedings with the California Labor Commissioner. He is actively involved in litigation covered by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNN, and the New York Times, among others.
With extensive experience in entertainment and media law, breach of contract, fraud and interference, employment (wrongful termination and discrimination), and business law, Mr. Matthews represents a wide range of clients including producers, directors, production companies, athletes, entrepreneurs, C-level executives and high-net-worth individuals in the entertainment industry and business sector.
In 2010, he facilitated the litigation strategy regarding a breach contract dispute associated with $6 million in potential damages. He was involved with a breach of contract matter over a multi-million-dollar international oil deal. He also has broad experience related to partnership disputes and resolution.
Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mr. Matthews spent nearly a decade as a film finance executive and producer. He raised the capital to fully finance his first feature film, which was then sold to a mini-major motion picture studio and licensed to various international distributors. Later, he managed a team of top entertainment executives and formed several slate financing arrangements with various motion picture studios. The deals were valued around $600 million.
He interfaced with alliances per international closings of bank guarantees and standby letters of credit valued in excess of $3 billion. As an executive, Mr. Matthews also negotiated a $30 million prints and advertising arrangement with a publicly held company; and evaluated a $15 million equity investment into a cable enterprise.