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Disney Loses 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' Suit

Jury awards British creator of hit game show $269 million 7/07/2010 04:26:58 PM Eastern

A
federal jury in California awarded the British creators of the hit game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire $269
million in damages in a ruling that Disney-ABC has vowed to fight.

"We
believe this verdict is fundamentally wrong and will aggressively seek to have
it reversed," Disney said in a statement.

According
to the jury, which returned its decision July 7 after a four-week trial in
Riverside County, Disney "failed to perform the obligations of the rights
agreement" in its contract with Celador International. The British production
company was awarded more than $260 million for revenues from the network
license fee and another $9.2 million in merchandising revenue.

Celador
has been pursuing Disney and subsidiaries ABC and Buena Vista Television along
with Valleycrest Productions since 2004, when it first filed a breach of
contract suit.

The
suit shined a light on the age-old practice of "Hollywood accounting" - where
hit productions show little or no profit - and which lead Celador lawyer Roman
Silberfeld characterized as a "shell game."

The
trial led to subpoenas for a plethora of industry heavyweights including Disney
CEO Bob Iger, Michael Davies, the ABC executive who brought Millionaire to the States, and Ben
Silverman, who was then an agent at William Morris and who helped package the
deal. Iger's predecessor Michael Eisner, who was in Italy on business during
the trial, did not take the stand. But e-mails in which Eisner expressed his
desire to make many millions off of Millionaire
were read aloud in court.

 

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