Huffington and Lerer have already ridiculed the claim.
The suit, which will be filed in the New York Supreme Court, alleges that the two consultants, Peter Daou and James Boyce, presented the idea for the site to Huffington and Lerer and that the parties had a handshake agreement to work together. But then, Daou and Boyce say, Huffington and Lerer ran off and raised money and launched the site themselves:
“Huffington has styled herself as a ‘new media’ maven and an expert on the effective deployment of news and celebrity on the Internet in the service of political ends,” says the complaint. “As will be shown at trial, Huffington’s and Lerer’s image with respect to the Huffington Post is founded on false impressions and inaccuracies: They presented the ‘new media’ ideas and plans of Peter Daou and James Boyce as their own in order to raise money for the website and enhance their image, and breached their promises to work with Peter and James to develop the site together.”
Huffington and Lerer provided a written statement to Politico in which they ridiculed the claim, saying that the two consultants wanted jobs with the site and were turned down–and are now just trying to extort money:
Huffington called the charge of stolen ideas and broken deals “a completely absurd, ludicrous supposition” from men whom she’d turned down for jobs on the site.
“We have now officially entered into Bizzaro World. James Boyce and Peter Daou, two political operatives who we rejected going into business with or hiring 6 years ago, and who had absolutely nothing to do with creating, running, financing, or building the Huffington Post, now concoct some scheme saying they own part of the company,” she and Lerer said in a written statement to POLITICO, writing that the two “tried to cash in” before filing suit and “said they’d go away for just a little money.”
“For months now they have been trying to extract money from us. They are filing the lawsuit of course because we did not agree to any payment,” they wrote.
Politico has the full story, along with documents. We have no further insight as yet.
We do find it curious that Daou and Boyce waited six years to make this claim. We also note that, 6 years after the fact, it’s often hard to remember what was even said in meetings, let along what was verbally agreed to, if anything. (Thus, the general use of contracts). And, from a legal perspective, we note that “handshake agreements” are usually the equivalent of the “dorm-room chitchat” that a judge ridiculed in the Facebook case. Written and signed contracts are what matter.
NOTE: Ken Lerer is an investor in Business Insider.