David Siegel is the piece of work who made a fortune selling time shares and nearly lost it during the financial crisis, as profiled in Lauren Greenfield’s excellent documentary, Queen of Versailles. Despite the fact that the movie portrayed Siegel and his wife far more sympathetically than they deserved, Siegel sued Greenfield for defamation. This week, an arbitrator at the Independent Film and Television Alliance ruled against Siegel, hopefully putting an end to his lawsuit.
Knowing that a filmmaker-friendly forum like IFTA wouldn’t be too kind to him, Siegel fought like hell to keep his defamation claims in federal court, but last year, a judge ruled Greenfield attained a proper release from those at Westgate Resorts who participated in the filming. As such, the matter went to arbitration.
The Siegels were clearly participating the entire time, and even took pictures with Greenfield at the Sundance premiere. You wonder what they expected the documentary to be like.
“Having viewed the supposedly egregious portions of the Motion Picture numerous times, [the Arbitrator] simply does not find that any of the content of the Motion Picture was false,” rules arbitrator Roy Rifkin.
[…]Siegel wasn’t happy that the press release for the film described a “timeshare tycoon and his socialite wife” being “forced to sell off the unfinished property or face economic truth” and a “rags-to-riches-to-rags story.”
[...] “There is nothing taken away by the viewer of the Motion Picture that is inconsistent with the fundamental reality that the global recession created a crisis for Westgate causing it to have to reluctantly give up its interest in PH Towers,” writes the arbitrator in his ruling. “To a great extent this is derived from the words of David, Jackie, and Richard Siegel themselves. Perhaps the clearest example of this is David referring to the story being told as a ‘rags-to-riches-to-rags story.’ “
That’s right, he sued for defamation over the filmmakers using a direct quote from him in their marketing material, as if you needed any further proof of what a shitty dickhead this guy is. And it seems the most offensive thing about it to him was that it implied that he was ever poor.
The idea that the film somehow defamed him is hilarious. Have you ever been to a timeshare presentation? The fact that the movie made people care about a timeshare millionaire beyond the vague desire to see one fall into a volcano is a goddamned miracle.