Bill Nye filed a $37 million lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. and a number of its subsidiaries Thursday, alleging that he was deprived of $9 million in profits from his show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which originally ran from 1993 to 1998 on PBS.
He also said that the defendants profited off his work to the tune of more than $28 million. The defendants also include Buena Vista Television and ABC, the show’s distributors.
The Walt Disney Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Buena Vista Television said in a statement: “This lawsuit is a publicity ploy and we look forward to vigorously defending it.”
The lawsuit’s assertions include fraudulent concealment (that Disney and its subsidiaries knew of profits from the show that they kept from Nye), breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
The dispute stems from the royalties Nye said he was supposed to make from the show, which the lawsuit, posted online by Deadline, says was supposed to be 16.5 percent of the net profits. In 2008, Buena Vista sent Nye a royalty check for $585,123. Shortly after, according to the lawsuit, Buena Vista told Nye that this check was a miscalculation and that he actually owed the studio $496,111.
And then, Nye’s legal team said, Buena Vista stopped paying at all. Months of negotiations went nowhere, and Nye suspected shoddy bookkeeping.
“Unfortunately,” Disney “did not come to the negotiating table, nor did it act in good faith to resolve the dispute,” the lawsuit reads. Instead, it “encouraged Mr. Nye to launch an audit that WDC had no intention of ever accommodating.”
Nye did try to start an audit in 2013, according to the court papers, but he said Disney stonewalled him by, among other things, not providing requested documents.