Sports Illustrated’s Owner Sues Energy Drink Mogul After Chaos at Magazine

Sports Illustrated’s owner on Monday sued Manoj Bhargava, the energy drinks mogul whose foray into media has been rife with chaos and conflict, accusing him of failing to pay millions of dollars for the rights to publish the iconic magazine.

The 51-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, says that Mr. Bhargava and Arena Group, the publisher he controls, owe $48.75 million in missed payments, as well as damages for infringing on Sports Illustrated’s copyrights and trademarks.

The lawsuit represents the latest public skirmish between Authentic Brands Group, which owns Sports Illustrated, and Mr. Bhargava, the 5-Hour Energy drink founder whose effort to take control of Sports Illustrated’s parent company has resulted in a series of lawsuits and turmoil at the sports publication.

Sports Illustrated is being operated by Minute Media, a New York-based sports-media company that wrested the title away from Arena Group last month by striking a new deal with the magazine’s owner. After Arena Group laid off scores of employees in January and threatened to discontinue Sports Illustrated’s print edition, Minute Media pledged to hire some of them back and keep the magazine alive.

Authentic Brands Group, a New York-based intellectual property company that also owns the rights to celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal and Marilyn Monroe, said in its suit that Mr. Bhargava had repeatedly “opted for lawlessness” in his dealings with Sports Illustrated, deliberately missing payments to license the magazine and interfering with its new operator.

“In less than five months, Bhargava’s new venture not only crashed and burned, but almost took SI down along with it,” the lawsuit says.

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