John Textor doesn't want to talk to the press.
"I don't trust any of you," he said to a reporter on a recent weekday afternoon, answering the door of his cloistered Hobe Sound house in a faded green polo shirt, slacks, and sandals.
The former CEO of Digital Domain, the country's most famous digital video-effects shop, is feeling pretty down these days. He had an audacious vision: rejuvenating the video effects industry right here in South Florida; creating a startup production studio to rival Pixar; luring local animation students to take part in the next great thing. Then it all collapsed, and nearly everyone blamed Textor.
Investors were getting angry for months before the company went bankrupt last month. In August, Textor and his wife Deborah filed for a Martin County court injunction against two anonymous commenters claiming to be investors, who had been taunting and vaguely threatening the Textors on Yahoo! Finance message boards.
"We will see how he explains this to both his children," read one of the comments. "See you at the golf course yet you will never realize it is me," read another. There were sexually explicit comments about his wife.
A judge granted the injunction, and the comments were removed -- but the judge denied a request to have them sealed in the court files.
The business press has heaped praise on Textor's iconoclastic vision and big ideas many times in his career. When he came to West Palm asking for public money and proposing to build an innovative new school in partnership with FSU that would funnel young workers into Digital Domain's shop, the Palm Beach Post story all but ignored the weight of his past failures and lawsuits. "Ups, downs just business as usual for studio boss poised to change West Palm Beach," read one headline
Past colleagues say that the positive press Textor attracts isn't a fluke -- it's a direct result of his easygoing, magnetic personality and occasional brilliant thinking. Associates describe him as a visionary before his time, with grand ideas but little grounding in the nuts and bolts. But after the company flopped, the critics piled on. Our own commentator penned a tirade
against one of Textor's less impressive moments, an apparent admission that he was game to use students as unpaid labor.
The remnants of Digital Domain -- mostly its still-successful California effects business -- have been sold to Chinese and Indian firms. Former investors wonder aloud whether Textor has some kind of stake in the new deal, whether this is part of a plan. But he tells a plainer story: "I lost my job, too," he says, standing in his doorway.
"It's been a witch hunt."