The end of Ninn’s involvement with Ninn Worx, a company he founded, marks a new journey, a new company and a new name for the auteur. Now known as IMNINN, the director is working on new multimedia projects in the wake of the acrimonious split.
About the only thing the two sides reportedly agreed upon was that Ninn no longer was a part of his namesake studio — though he remains a minority shareholder — all other grievances were debated.
Spearmint Rhino acquired Ninn Worx last year with the director retaining 49 percent of the company. Included in the deal was the director’s library of titles, which Ninn claims was earning around $100,000 per month.
Ninn told XBIZ that he wasn’t sure if he was going to be bought out, but claims that Spearmint Rhino breached its contract with him entitling him to legal redress. Ninn plans to file a suit against the Rhino claiming breach of contract, which it did “about 25 minutes after I signed it,” he said.
Specifically Ninn cited his wait of “more than eight months” for a balance sheet and the company’s less than upfront accounting practices contributing to the alleged breach.
“Michael was never an employee of the company, so he wasn’t fired — he’s a shareholder,” Spearmint Rhino Chief Operations Officer Kathy Vercher told XBIZ. “Michael will remain a shareholder until one decides to buy out the other.”
Vercher also states that the company doesn’t own the Michael Ninn name and that Ninn is free to use his name for other projects — something Ninn vehemently denies.
Vercher claims that Ninn wasn’t pushed out; he wanted to take a leave of his own volition and Ninn, along with Vercher and Rhino CEO John L. Gray, agreed to stop production. Spearmint Rhino announced Ninn’s production hiatus June 4.
Ninn claims that he was asked two Fridays ago to leave the office "under the guise of electrical repairs," only to come back the following Monday to find the lock had been changed.
Then there is the issue of Ninn Worx’s debt. Ninn admitted to the company having some financial problems when the Rhino acquired it, “but they didn’t buy a broken company. Our website was making money, as was our content library and new releases.”
“[Ninn Worx_SR] is in debt, but the debt that the company holds goes back to Spearmint Rhino for funds that we infused into it," Verchersaid. "Ninn Worx has money that is owes Spearmint Rhino [Consulting Worldwide] for production costs.”
In an earlier statement released by Ninn’s publicist, the director issues a broadside against Gray and the company’s morals and ethics, citing “half-truths” he had allegedly been told.
“I’ve asked Michael more times than I can count what it is that he’s talking about and he could never tell me and didn’t want to get into it,” Vercher said. “I don’t believe there’s anything there. Obviously there are hard feelings. I like Michael a lot. I wish him the best. But to get into this piddy-pat game of who said what and me trying to dissect [what he’s trying to say] — I’m not going to slander him. He’s a good guy who’s just obviously going through some personal issues right now.”
Spearmint Rhino plans to finish editing Ninn’s epic “The Four” in the coming months, and other titles that have finished production take the company’s release schedule through the end of the year. At that point, Vercher said, the company will look for new directors to carry on the Ninn Worx_SR brand.
“We invested in Michael and we invested in Michael’s vision,” Vercher said. “We put our money where our mouth was. When we purchased Ninn Worx from him he was to come in and be the head of the corporation, to be the director of the corporation. We were to put the money in and we did that. We just could not fuel his fantasies anymore, making movies with no end to the budget in sight or whatever it was; it no longer made business sense. More money was going in than what was coming out.”
In the end, Ninn said he feels that he was used as a pawn for Spearmint Rhino to make entry into the adult video market and get its own imprint, Spearmint Rhino Films, off the ground. Ninn’s main gripe with the company was over payment to his crew, contract stars and other contractors who worked on his films.
“I stand on the outside of Ninn Worx_SR along with my contract stars and my crew, knowing that I no longer have to live with the lie that the check is in the mail or that the corporate committee will get back to you as soon as they have reviewed your invoice and have reached a decision on paying you,” Ninn said.
Things came to a head, Ninn claims, over a $1,500 payment owed to his still photographer Chris King on an invoice from January. Ninn said he paid King out of his own pocket, and then went into Vercher's and Gray’s offices “to say this shit’s got to stop. I was told I wasn’t a team player and two days later I was locked out of my own office.”
If you take Mr. Gray’s statements that he’s made over the course of time and compare them with his current statements, you’re really hard pressed to understand the truth and consistency behind them,” Ninn continued. “I bought into a bunch of promises that weren’t true. He’s said in other media outlets that the problems were me and him bumping heads financially in the overspending, but he’s the one who wrote the checks. They sign the checkbooks. He’s been on record claiming that money was an object [for production costs],then it wasn't, but now he’s claiming that it is.”
Ninn also alleges a fundamental flaw in the way the Rhino approached the adult movie industry.
“They don’t understand our business, not at all,” he said. “They want to equate a porn star with a dancer. It doesn’t work that way. There are not 1,000 Jana Jordans, or Cassideys, or Brea Bennetts behind the originals. You cannot replace them. They deserve respect. This came down to business ethics 101. I’m not as rich as Mr. Gray, but I’m doing OK. If this is how you treat the people under you to get that wealthy, I never want to be that rich.”