Stephen Shamus has turned to the Dark Side. The once-exec with Wizard World in charge of retaining and interacting with the celebrities and other artists, has been terminated due to Shamus illicitly obtaining autographs and other memorabilia from the celebrities at Wizard World events and selling them for his own benefit to the tune of over one million dollars over the years.
In a court document filed on October 28th with the U.S. District Court of Southern New York, Wizard World, Inc. charges that Shamus, former Wizard World Chief Marketing Officer, “abused his position of trust to misappropriate substantial sums, believed to exceed $1 million, and caused other losses.”
Apparently this has been going on for years as the filing continued claiming Shamus, “diverted substantial funds and resources, all generated and paid for by Wizard World, to himself and his co-conspirators.”
Here’s a look at the official court filing in its entirety…
A summons has also been issued by Wizard World’s attorneys Thomas J. Fleming and Kyle J. Kolb.
Furthermore, a termination email (which was obtained by Bleeding Cool) sent to Mr. Shamus by Wizard World’s attorneys on behalf of Wizard World’s CEO John D. Maatta reveals a bit more of what transpired…
In a report filed on November 2nd with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and obtained through Wizard World’s Investor Relations webpage, President/CEO Maatta signed and issued a Form 8-K announcing the resignation of Kenneth Shamus from the Board of Directors, as well as his position as CEO of Toywiz, Inc. No word as of yet if Kenneth is one of the 10 John Does mentioned in the filing against Stephen or corroborated with his relative buuuuuut it doesn’t look so well (perhaps guilt by association?). The court filing did state that Stephen arranged for, “the sale of the Stolen Memorabilia, sometimes through one or more outlets owned by members of his extended family in the New York metropolitan area.”
Other than the obvious poor decisions made by Shamus and ethical no-no considered by, I don’t know, EVERYONE, one of the big things to take away from this is how Shamus’ actions (his past shady practices and the effects which they could now have with this announcement) could impact the convention on a number of levels financially.
First, one thing I see as being negatively impacted by this news is the price tag found on celebrities’ autographs. And it might not only affect Wizard World cons either. Granted, most celebs know (or should) that there will always be people looking to get something signed at a con only for the sake of flipping it. ‘Merica. Many con guests actually take that into consideration and have structured their fees accordingly. But when it comes from someone they have interacted with regularly over the course of years, someone they trusted, one who held an executive position with the company? Who can say for sure just what impact on signed photos and collectibles may now run.
Also in hindsight, could some of the reasons celebs charge what they do (let’s just speak of Wizard World cons for the moment) is because of Shamus’ “extra items” being signed all the time? Or was it because Shamus, as noted in the court filing, “often negotiated money-losing deals for Wizard World in order to gain access to celebrities whom he could exploit for his own enrichment“?
Another big ripple through the fabric of the convention world is will celebrities, guests and artists stop attending, refusing to attend, or cancel appearances with Wizard World in the near future? This wasn’t Wizard World done as a whole. It was one individual who took it upon himself to exploit a financial opportunity. Personally, I hope in my heart that Wizard World con guests will see this as a deceitful solo act and not hold it against any of the great folks working the cons.
Yeah, this isn’t going to sit well with many.
Kudos for Wizard World catching this when they did. It could most certainly be worse. Knowing many of those who work for the convention organizer, I have a feeling they will rebound quickly, regroup, and ensure something of this magnitude never sees the light of day.
As more on this story transpires, PopCultHQ will bring you the latest news, updates, and developments.