Max Azria is one big reason you can’t buy Playboy condoms at Wal Mart stores the U.S., according to an attorney for businessman Jimmy Esebag. (Rats. I know.) Esebag filed a $220 million suit against Azria today, saying that the designer (of BCBG and his namesake line) misrepresented himself, which delayed getting the condoms off the ground and prevented them from landing in Wal-Mart and Carrefour stores. (You can buy the rubbers overseas, however.)
According to Esebag’s lawyer Bryan Freedman, of Freedman & Taitelman, LLP in L.A., Azria said that he could obtain the license and then get Wal-Mart and Carrefour to sell the condoms. Azria had ties to Wal-Mart since that’s where he sold the line he launched with Miley Cyrus in the summer of 2009.
The four months Esebag spent unsuccessfully trying to get the condom project together with Azria cost him upwards of $200 million in lost profits, Freedman says.
Azria has been targeted in many lawsuits, including a few for trademark infringement, such as one Givenchy filed against BCBG for knocking off one of its handbags. Thanks to this history, he couldn’t obtain the Playboy license for the condoms. The lawsuit also alleges that Azria concealed these many lawsuits, along with his company's widely covered financial problems.
TMZ reported that “Walmart was gun-shy about doing business” with Azria, “partly because some BCBG's clothing lines allegedly contained dangerous levels of lead.” (We are awaiting response from Wal-Mart on that matter, though 2009 reports indicate jewelry from that line contained toxic levels of cadmium.)
Esebag has “been representing Playboy in the licensing world for over 20 years,” says Freedman. When asked for comment on the suit, a spokesperson for Azria said Esebag has “also been sued for fraud by other business partners in relation to Playboy condom deals.”
A press release about the plaintiffs’ case includes some ridiculous-sounding quotes from Azria:
The suit alleges a disconnect between Azria’s brazen portrayal of his financial health and reality. In that regard, the suit quotes Azria’s recent deposition testimony, “I want to tell you, $2,000 is the tip that I give to restaurant when I go to the restaurant… Money is nothing. If he need a million dollars, I give him a million dollars. . . But even if it’s $10 million, I have no problem.”
Azria’s spokesperson says these quotes “are taken out of context,” adding: “Max was victorious in a prior arbitration relating to this matter.”
“Had our client known that there were all these skeletons in Max Azria’s closet our client would have never agreed to do business with him,” Freedman says. Understandable. Googling these things is so hard.