Even without Kramer at the helm, DragonCon continued to thrive, last year celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. Its annual costume parade along Peachtree Street, begun in the post-Kramer era, has been embraced by Atlanta as one of the city’s premier people- and creature-watching events.
Still, for many, Kramer casts an ominous shadow over the event—one that current DragonCon leaders have tried to remove. Within a few years of Kramer’s arrest, DragonCon began severing visible ties to its main founder by all but purging his name from the website and forbidding on-site collections for his legal fund. In 2009 Kramer filed the first of two lawsuits against Henry and DragonCon/ACE Inc. In the complaints, now both filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Kramer essentially accuses his former partner of looting the company by spending con funds on junkets to Las Vegas, giving himself a healthy (but unspecified) salary as CEO, and putting his wife and daughters on the payroll.
As soon as Kramer stepped down from the DragonCon board in August 2000 “to attend to a personal legal matter,” Henry deliberately underreported attendance figures, the complaint says, in an apparent effort to hide the company’s value and shortchange Kramer on annual dividends.
According to court documents, between 2004 and 2006, Henry tried to buy Kramer out—eventually offering as much as $500,000—but Kramer refused to sell without seeing a balance sheet. So Henry simply withheld Kramer’s dividend until he threatened legal action.
“It’s a classic squeeze-out,” says attorney McNeill Stokes, who represents Kramer against DragonCon. Stokes says his client eventually received dividends for 2009 and 2010—although he won’t say how much Kramer received for those or previous years—but was forced to file the second suit last year in an effort to collect his 2011 dividend of $154,000.
Henry hung up the phone when contacted for comment, and he did not return subsequent messages. But his postings on the DragonCon website place its 2011 attendance at more than 46,000—far less than the 125,000 visitors who went to Comic-Con last year, but sizable enough to rate among Atlanta’s largest conventions.
DragonCon, however, has never released revenue figures, even under Kramer’s watch. This Labor Day weekend, attendees will pay $120 in advance for admission for all four days, or between $30 and $50 for one-day passes. By all accounts, the event has always had a small payroll, instead relying on up to 2,000 volunteers, with first-timers paying $20 a head for the privilege.