Businessweek recently published a cover story about Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige — “The Man Who Saved Marvel.” We’ve heard a lot of people gush about Feige the wunderkind, and given the success of Marvel’s films, it seems pretty deserved. But Feige’s old boss, Avi Arad, disagrees. Well, he takes issue with one section of the article, specifically this paragraph:
“Finally, Marvel decided to create its own studio. In 2005 it put up as collateral the film rights to characters it still controlled, such as Captain America and Nick Fury, and got $525 million in financing from Merrill Lynch. Arad, who had doubts about the strategy, resigned the following year. Feige was named studio chief in 2007. He was 33 years old, and he was in charge of Hollywood’s first major independent movie studio since DreamWorks.”
That sounds a lot like Arad left or was booted because he didn’t agree with the independent production plan. It also sounds like he didn’t have much to do with planning Marvel’s slate of films. He says that is false, and he has sent a scathing letter to the reporter. He also sent it to various media outlets, and our friends at Latino Review found it on a French website called Daily Mars, which is run by Philippe Guedj, who directed a recent documentary called Marvel Renaissance, which Arad appears in.
Here’s the letter:
“Good morning Devin. As usual you manage to disappoint me with your false statements. I am sure you were told by Marvel that I resigned over the self-financing strategy. It is about time for a reporter like you to do your homework and check the facts. It will sound arrogant to you, but I single handedly put together the Marvel slate. Read it carefully and you will notice the natural progression of the character’s design to get to where we are today. You should reach out to Merill Lynch and Ambac Insurance and to our international partners that came on board based on my track record. Our financial partners counted on my reputation. I had to work very hard to convert the doubters. They trusted me and without Iron Man this article would have not been written. Iron Man was not even in the original slate. I knew that we needed it so I set out to get it back from Newline and the rest is history. Our financing would have never happened without me reaching out to Brad Grey to make a distribution deal that will give you a corporate guarantee. Other people in Marvel worked for many months with Universal and could not reach a deal. I got tired of waiting and went to Brad. The deal was done in days, successful for both companies. The big presentation to financial institutions and insurance companies took place on the Paramount lot. I was the presenter and it worked. Does this sound to you like someone who disagreed with the strategy to make our own movies? I have forgiven Kevin for following orders and taking the credit, but he had no choice. Shame on you for kowtowing to your business gods. I have given up on journalistic integrity. You called me to talk about Kevin and I gave you the most true and glowing account on someone that I love and respect. Share your notes otherwise you just wasted my time. I will share this letter with other papers and your management to demonstrate the unprofessional self-serving work this reporter demonstrated.”
In addition to airing some of Marvel’s dirty laundry, that letter has a lot of new behind the scenes information. Do you think Universal fired whoever lost them all the Marvel Phase 1 distribution money? And there would be no Iron-Man without Arad? How would you do The Avengers without Tony Stark? The Businessweek article emphasizes Feige’s stubborn insistence on key decisions like setting the first Captain America film entirely in the ’40s and introducing Thor and Captain America in Phase 1 before they joined the Avengers. Is that the false credit the execs supposedly made him take? Marvel keeps a tight lid on things, so some or all of that is likely true, and some of the asserted facts must be on the record somewhere, but Arad leaves one key detail blank. Why did he really leave Marvel? It couldn’t have been to produce Bratz: The Movie.