Brass Ring Co-Founder Wins $8M in ‘Surreal Life’ Case Against Former Partners (Exclusive)

Arbitrator finds that Brass Ring co-founder Paul Telles is entitled to 25% of profits from “The Surreal Life,” “Rock of Love,” “Charm School” and a slew of reality series

Rick Telles, co-founder of Brass Ring Entertainment, has won an arbitration award of approximately $8 million against his former partners, Cristobal Abrego and Mark Cronin.

The ruling brings to an end a bitter, years-long arbitration battle over "The Surreal Life" and the numerous reality TV series that sprang from it.

As part of the award, Telles will also receive a percentage of the profits from a host of reality offerings, including "The Surreal Life," "Flavor of Love," "Rock of Love," "I Love New York," "For the Love of Ray J," "Charm School" and "My Fair Brady."

An arbitrator found that Abrego and Cronin committed breach of contract, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty against Telles, according to court papers obtained by TheWrap.

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The trouble began in 2002, when Telles and his Brass Ring Entertainment partner Abrego met with Cronin, of the production company Mindless Entertainment. The three combined to form a new venture, Mindring Productions, which would go on to create and produce the reality series "The Surreal Life," which originally ran on the WB but moved to VH1 in 2004.

Telles alleged that he returned to Mindring after a long illness in May 2004 to begin work on the third season of "The Surreal Life," only to be told by Abrego and Cronin that they wanted to sever business ties with him.

Abrego and Cronin then went on to form 51 Minds Entertainment — producers of the aforementioned shows. According to Telles, the pair "secretly deleted" Mindring from an agreement for the "Surreal Life" spinoff "Strange Love" and replaced it with 51 Minds.

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According to Telles, the three crafted an agreement by which Telles would receive 25 percent of the profits from "Surreal Life" and "Strange Love," along with executive-producer fees, but after Cronin and Abrego "refused to pay," Telles and Brass Ring filed suit against his former partners in 2007. The suit was subsequently stayed, pending arbitration.

Telles' lawyers argued that the slew of reality shows mentioned above, in one way another, originated from "The Surreal Life."

In addition to Abrego, Cronin, Mindring Productions, Mindless Entertainment, 51 Pictures and 51 Minds Entertainment, Telles' attorneys sought on Wednesday to add a number of other entities to the list of judgment debtors, including Endemol 51 Holdings Inc. Reality TV giant Endemol acquired a controlling stake in 51 Minds in a deal that was reportedly worth upward of $200 million in 2008.

"We're very pleased with this outcome and Rick Telles is very pleased with this outcome," Telles' attorneys, Stephen Fraser and Todd Croutch, told TheWrap. "This is an example of the system working."

Pamela Chelin contributes to this report.