With virtually every public event being cancelled until July at the soonest, including comic cons, most of the public lamentation has been from disappointed fans and exhibitors. But ACE Comic Con, the event company behind a line of A-list celebrity studded cons, is crying foul over what they say is fraud and theft from GrowTix, the ticket seller behind a slew of popular comic cons and other events.
First reported at THR, the suit involves Ace Comic Con in Boston, which was to feature a dazzling array of nerdlebrities including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tessa Thompson, Ewan MacGregor and Hayden Christensen. Although ACE tried to put the show on with sanitation measures, they had to cancel the show, leaving thousands of fans needing refunds for tickets and photos ops.
According to the suit filed by Ace, GrowTix is accused of “stealing millions of dollars” in those refunds that were to have gone to customers. You can read the complaint here, courtesy of THR.
GrowTix provided the ticketing services and event management software. According to the complaint, GrowTix was to be compensated based on a percentage of sales, and the two companies had an agreement with each other covering the processing of refunds in the event of cancellation. That contract also contained a force majeure provision, which ACE says excused performance when the parties were prevented from living up to obligations by reason of “governmental action” or an “act of God” beyond control.
But according to the suit, GrowTix told ACE they they were withholding the refund monies and needed more fees from ACE. The most dramatic claim is that “Patron (Growtix’s paretn company) sought to attach and withdraw $2.3 million from ACE bank accounts in the middle of the night. Fortunately, this unauthorized attack on ACE’s bank accounts, which would have jeopardized the company and all but destroyed any chance at refunds, was prevented.”
This is a troubling account, however, today GrowTix released a strongly worded statement of their own:
ACE’s lawsuit does not reflect the reality of the business relationship between our two companies, nor the good faith steps Growtix took to help Comic Con fans obtain their rightfully due refunds. We intend to defend vigorously against this meritless and frivolous lawsuit.
The article published on March 24, 2020 in the Hollywood Reporter regarding the Boston ACE Universe Comic Con cancellation and actions by Growtix is a plainly inaccurate account of events and a misrepresentation of the obligations and actions of both Growtix and ACE Universe.
As a service provider, Growtix facilitated the transactions for over $2.9 million in sales for ACE Universe, with all of the money due to ACE under the contract transferred to ACE as part of the services agreement between the two companies. When the event was cancelled, ACE was responsible for returning that $2.9 million+ they were paid to the fans. Growtix is the transaction processor to make this happen, not the bank for ACE, and thus needed ACE to return the money originally sent to them to Growtix in order to pay the refunds. ACE refused to do this (which they are obligated to do under the contract), and as permitted by the contract between them, Growtix attempted to access the funds to cover the refunds to the fans, who expected and deserved this to occur in the 30-day window promised by ACE.
The lawsuit does not reflect any of the reality of the business relationship between the two companies, nor the good faith steps Growtix took to help Comic Con fans obtain their rightfully due refunds.
Talk about a he said, they said with fans holding the empty picture frame where their photo of them with Chris Evans should go.
ACE Comic Con, which is run by industry vets Stephen and Gareb Shamus, has been in business since 2017, running a very limited slate of celebrity heavy shows, with events in Chicago, Seattle, and Phoenix. ACE Boston was to be their first event in that city.
GrowTix has become the go-to company for large fandom events in the US for a few years, with clients including ReedPOP, Planet Comicon, Denver Comic Con and many more. Earlier this year they were acquired by Patron Technology, an event technology company.
Which ever side you choose to believe, as noted in THR, this is probably only the first of many lawsuits over cancelled fan events in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.