By Kenneth Jones
08 Oct 2012
Attorney Ronald G. Russo — representing Rebecca Broadway LP, Sprecher/Forlenza Production Inc and Ben Sprecher, the lead producer of Rebecca, The Musical — claimed that "his investigators were able to establish that the names, addresses and business associations of the investors were clever fabrications by Mr. Mark C. Hotton."
As has now been widely reported, the musical was not able to begin rehearsals on Oct. 1 due to a $4.5 million shortfall in money that was promised by a shadowy investor named Paul Abrams, who was said to have died in London of malaria in early August. It recently surfaced that Hotton, a Long Island businessman, was the person who introduced Sprecher to Abrams, via email. There was never a face-to-face meeting or phone call between Sprecher and Abrams.
The amount promised by Abrams was roughly one-third of the capitalization of the $12 million pop musical inspired by the Daphne Du Maurier gothic novel about mysterious characters, a distant death and extraordinary peril.
Pointing to another, unrelated 2010 civil complaint against Hotton, Russo added, "Having seen the fraud of which Mr. Hotton has been accused, I am not surprised that he was able to defraud the production of Rebecca. Hopefully, through the efforts of my client and the proper authorities, Mr. Hotton will be brought to justice."
The New York Times, which has led the news coverage of this bizarre case of producers' faith in potential investors, reported that Hotton was promised a commission for finding investors for the musical.
Hotton's lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, told the Times, "There is no benefit to my client unless and until there was an investment of actual dollars… My client met these people and tried to raise money in good faith and the bottom line is that he was completely duped. If they were fictitious, what was in it for Hotton?"
It was not immediately clear how involved other law enforcement agencies are in the inquiry into possible fraud, and what legal action might be taken against anyone who allegedly helped scuttle the show's fall launch. No charges have been pressed. As for other complaints against Hotton, Shargel told the Times, "there has never been an adverse verdict returned against him."
Russo, representing the producers, said his "investigation now turns its full attention to establishing the identity of the anonymous malicious email sent directly to an investor on Sept. 28, 2012, who had committed and provided funds necessary to allow the show to proceed to rehearsal."
That email scared off the potential white knight who could have saved Rebecca following the loss of "Abrams" and his partners, Russo asserts. "That email was directly responsible for his withdrawal and the subsequent postponement of the production."
Officially, Sprecher, who has not commented to Playbill.com, considers the production dormant, not dead.