Ozzie Areu sues financier over control of Atlanta movie studio once owned by Tyler Perry

Ozzie Areu at the 1st annual OTT Fest in Atlanta on October 10, 2019.

Combined ShapeCaption
Ozzie Areu at the 1st annual OTT Fest in Atlanta on October 10, 2019.

A local Atlanta movie studio owner who used to work for Tyler Perry has sued a financier who took over his studio, claiming the new owner blocked him out and diverted funds away from the studio itself.

Ozzie Areu, former president for Tyler Perry Studios, and his brother Will Areu, purchased Perry’s old studio space from Perry for $18.5 million in 2018. But several months after the pandemic began in March 2020, Areu Studios filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In the filing, Areu Studios claimed assets of less than $50,000 and liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million.

Areu made an agreement with Los Angeles financier Steve M. Greenberg in March 2021 to loan $12.4 million through Arena Limited and provide a $700,000 equity investment to get the studio out of bankruptcy. Greenberg Georgia Film and TV Studio Holdings would effectively own 80% of the studio under the name Greenberg Georgia while Areu’s company Oz Media would own 20%. The bankruptcy court approved the reorganization plan.

Areu, in a lawsuit filed April 8 in the Superior Court of Fulton County, said he would remain CEO but “Mr. Greenberg, without consent from Mr. Areu, assumed full control.”

He claimed in the lawsuit that Greenberg “failed to pay invoices from vendors, security services companies and even property taxes.” He also said Greenberg funneled money out of Greenberg Georgia’s accounts “for Mr. Greenberg’s personal benefit or the benefit of his other businesses.”

In November 2021, the lender Arena sued Greenberg for not making payments. Greenberg found new lender Stabilis in December.

In February, Areu sent a letter to Greenberg alleging mismanagement, incurring debt without Oz Media’s consent, failure to pay vendors and taxes and excluding Areu from any role in the company’s operations. Greenberg, after receiving the letter, demanded a $3 million capital contribution from Areu’s company and on Feb. 23, terminated Areu as CEO of Greenberg Georgia.

Greenberg couldn’t be reached for comment and Areu did not respond to a text inquiry about the lawsuit.

Areu, in an interview in 2019 with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said he wanted to funnel investment money into producing TV shows and films on top of providing rental space to production companies. In 2019, his company purchased THEA, a local video streaming platform from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The Areu Studios lot has five sound stages, a suburban back lot and four administration buildings. Areu previously said he planned to add a recording studio, a technology center and more sound stages.

Perry purchased the property and opened the 57-acre studio in 2008. He quickly outgrew the space and ended up opening a far larger studio on 330 acres that used to be part of Fort McPherson, an Army base.