Stan Lee’s estate is one step closer to clearing up a messy legal battle involving accusations of exploitation and elder abuse by the comic book legend’s inner circle, with the settlement of a lawsuit against Lee’s former business manager, Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez.
According to a court document filed on Monday, Lee’s estate moved to dismiss claims against Olivarez. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The settlement doesn’t include claims against Lee’s former attorney, Uvi Litvak.
The four-year legal saga, sparked by The Hollywood Reporter‘s investigation detailing accusations of elder abuse, revolves around an ugly battle over Lee’s estate that includes his daughter, J.C., and people who allegedly manipulated her in efforts to exploit her famous father. Lee accused J.C., his only child and heir to his estate, of verbally abusing him. THR reported that J.C.’s outbursts turned physical at some points in conflicts over money.
Stan Lee sued Olivarez and Litvak in 2018, calling them “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” seeking to take advantage of him following the death of his wife, Joan Lee.
Olivarez, a florist-turned-publicist, entered Lee’s inner circle as a consultant to J.C. and Joan’s various business endeavors before ending up with power of attorney over Lee after Joan’s death. He was given the title of “senior adviser,” handling caregiving duties for Lee.
“Jerry Olivarez and JC Lee, Stan and Joan Lee’s only daughter and Trustee of the Lee Family Trust, are happy to announce the resolution of their Court dispute,” said Olivarez’s attorney Donald Randolph in a Wednesday statement. “The genesis of this dispute was the unfortunate manipulation of Stan Lee and his family undertaken by certain individuals — not named in the lawsuit — which was intended to unfairly malign Jerry Olivarez. These individuals exerted undue influence on the Lee family to accuse Jerry Olivarez of harmful acts which he did not do.”
According to the complaint, Olivarez fired Stan Lee’s banker of 26 years along with his lawyers and transferred roughly $4.6 million out of his bank account without authorization. After convincing Lee to sign over power of attorney to him, Olivarez allegedly appointed his own lawyer, Livtak, as Lee’s lawyer without disclosing the conflict the interest.
Prior to his death, Lee claimed Olivarez tricked him into loaning $300,000 to a merchandising company masquerading as a nonprofit organization dedicated to racial peace, bought an $850,000 condo using his money, removed almost $1.4 million from his accounts through a series of wire transfers and modified his will. He alleged fraud, financial abuse of an elder and misappropriation of name and likeness, among other claims.
“Olivarez abused his relationship of trust with Lee and JC Lee, knowledge of Lee’s and JC Lee’s confidential business and estate planning operations, and ability to mislead Lee due his advanced age all in a covert and intentional effort to dupe Lee into a host of schemes and financial missteps that benefited Olivarez and disenfranchised Lee,” writes Randolph in the complaint.
Litvak remains a defendant in the case. In 2019, a judge granted a motion to move the dispute to arbitration. Lee brought claims against him for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. Livtak’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Los Angeles prosecutors are also pursuing a case against Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan. He was charged in 2019 with felony theft, embezzlement, fraud and false imprisonment of an elder adult. Lee named him as one of the “bad actors with bad intentions” who were trying to manipulate him in a court declaration. In 2018, Lee was granted a restraining order against Morgan. He was accused of isolating Lee from family and friends to embezzle art, cash and other assets valued at more than $5 million. Lee’s former business and asset manager Bradley J. Herman is listed as a witness for the prosecution.
Morgan, who accompanied Lee to Marvel movie premieres and acted as his publicist of sorts, was alleged to be behind a $1 billion lawsuit from Lee against Pow! Entertainment. Lee, who created the company in 2001, claimed that he was unduly influenced into signing away his intellectual property and likeness rights. He later dropped the suit, which J.C. continued to pursue. A federal appeals court in 2020 reversed a ruling awarding $1 million in sanctions to Pow! Entertainment, which argued that J.C.’s suit was meritless from the start, but allowed an order dismissing the case to stand.