Entrepreneur Ariadna Jacob, a former agent who represented TikTok stars and other online influencers, filed a $6.2 million lawsuit against The New York Times and star reporter Taylor Lorenz after she claimed a 2020 “hit job” article devastated her business.
Jacob and her company, Influences, filed the complaint earlier this month in the U.S. Southern District of New York. The complaint alleges the Gray Lady published an August 2020 article that made “numerous false and disparaging statements of fact and concerning” Jacob and Influences that resulted in clients fleeing her company over claims she said are wildly inaccurate.
“Most people that I’ve talked to have told me that, you know, that they’re proud of me and that it was a brave thing to do. It’s certainly not easy to sue one of the biggest news organizations,” Jacob told Fox News.
Entrepreneur Ariadna Jacob represented TikTok stars and other online influencers. (Ariadna Jacob)
“The biggest thing that people have to understand is that if this is happening in my industry, you know, it’s a niche industry that perhaps a lot of people don’t know the ins and outs of,” Jacob said. “But if this is happening in this industry, it could be happening in many others, and that’s concerning.”
The article Jacob says ruined her career, “Trying to Make It Big Online? Getting Signed Isn’t Everything,” paints a horrifying picture of the now-former agent. The article’s subhead said, “Young people come to Los Angeles in droves with dreams of fame and fortune. Once they’re discovered, it’s not always sunny,” and the photo caption accused Jacob of turning social media influencers’ dreams into a “living nightmare.”
Lorenz wrote that Jacob was the leaseholder of the Kids Next Door house, which was shared by TikTok influencers. Lorenz reported that Jacob agreed to pay half of the rent if the occupants “would produce content and fulfill a certain number of brand deals obtained by the company.” However, Lorenz wrote that brand deals fell through, the house didn’t have working Wi-Fi, and the tenants ended up struggling financially.
The Times report also claimed Jacob withheld money from clients, failed to come through on promises made to other clients and regularly pressured or intimidated her roster of influencers.
Jacob said the claims are untrue and is seeking $6.2 million in damages. She said her roster of 85 TikTok superstars, including five of the seven creators currently listed on the Forbes top earning TikTok creator’s list, have bolted since the Times article ruined her reputation in the industry.
Entrepreneur Ariadna Jacob filed a $6.2 million lawsuit against The New York Times and star reporter Taylor Lorenz after a 2020 "hit job" article devastated her business. (iStock)
However, the Times plans to “vigorously” defend itself against the accusations.
“Ms. Jacob’s main complaint is that The New York Times gave voice to young people who felt they had been mistreated by her. It’s troubling that she has turned to litigation to try to silence those who criticize her business practices. We plan to defend against the suit vigorously,” a Times spokesperson told Fox News.
Jacob, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a child, “managed, counseled, and guided dozens of TikTok influencers, including some of the most recognizable names and faces in the industry,” according to the complaint.
Jacob was “poised to be on the brink of making substantial profits until August 2020 when … her life’s work was derailed by Defendants’ defamation,” the complaint stated before detailing a series of events that allegedly occurred prior to the Times publishing the article in question.
The complaint alleged Lorenz was clearly “plotting the hit job piece for some time” and only reaching out to Jacob so “she could pretend to have done an ‘investigation’ when in reality she wanted to put Plaintiffs through a last minute fire drill believing they simply would not respond.” It claimed Lorenz asked a series of questions and didn’t give a reasonable amount of time for Jacob to respond, but documentation refuting many of her accusations was provided.
“Lorenz’s ambush was foiled. However, as Plaintiffs would soon learn, she and The Times chose to publish the defamatory Article anyway, believing their status and power with the mainstream media would armor them against any liability for lying,” the complaint stated.
Reporter Taylor Lorenz is currently away from The New York Times to work on a book. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
The complaint also accused two of the TikTok stars of providing false and inaccurate information to the Times, as well as the newspaper of knowingly printing misleading information despite being made aware prior to publication.
“Within days after the Article was published, Loreal informed Plaintiffs that it was no longer proceeding with its branding agreement with Influences. Numerous influencers under contract with Influences breached their agreement, citing Defendants’ false allegations of illegal and unethical conduct supposedly committed by Plaintiffs,” the complaint said.
“Influencers, brands and social media platforms now refuse to work with Plaintiffs based on the false allegations in the Article,” the complaint continued. “Influences lost all of its clients. Jacob had to seek mental health treatment and had suicidal ideations after seeing her life’s work destroyed by a spoiled dilettante whose life of privilege enabled her to use the megaphone of The Times to send shockwaves through Plaintiffs’ world and destroy her career.”
Lorenz is currently away from the Times while she writes a book. The complaint states that many of Jacob’s former clients fled to United Talent Agency after Lorenz tarnished her reputation. “Who represented Lorenz in procuring that [book] deal? None other than UTA,” the complaint said.
“Lorenz clearly had an economic motive to assist UTA—her agents—by wrecking one of its competitors with a ‘news story’ riddled with defamatory allegations of illegal and unethical conduct that would give Plaintiffs’ clients an excuse to breach their contracts and land at UTA,” the complaint said.
Earlier this year, New York Times sports reporter Karen Crouse resigned after she failed to disclose a book deal with Michael Phelps when she covered the Olympic swimming legend for the paper. Jacob feels that the conflict of interest by Lorenz mirrors the Crouse situation.
“I think it’s extremely similar,” Jacob said. “I certainly think that The New York Times should respond and say how it’s different. The rules of The New York Times and ethics are written out pretty black and white and I’d like to know if they’re going to hold her accountable.”
Before her resignation, the Times had blasted Crouse for a “significant lapse in judgment” and a clear “conflict of interest.”
Jacob told Fox News that she initially planned to try to move on without taking legal action. Advised that suing the Times wouldn’t be easy, she focused her attention on a new startup project. But Jacob said that Lorenz went after her again behind the scenes, contacting a reporter who planned to write a “comeback piece” about her next venture.
“She called the journalist’s editor and ranted that I was ‘literally an abuser’ and that they shouldn’t be giving me a platform. So after that happened, I really felt like if I don’t stand up for myself, I can’t even move forward and rebuild,” Jacob said.
“It really made me feel like if I don’t stand up and say something, then this is going to happen to other entrepreneurs. And it’s hard enough to be a female entrepreneur as it is,” Jacob continued. “And then for somebody this powerful to come and try to silence you, it’s I just don’t think its right.”
Lorenz has declared she doesn’t want to be contacted while on book leave. “Do not message me… I’m trying to remain offline and you messaging me makes that harder,” she tweeted.
Fox News sent her a request for comment through the New York Times’ public relations department but did not immediately receive a response.
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