• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Celador chairman mulls suing William Morris

Smith: "We believe we have a case"

LONDON -- Fresh from its $269 million David vs Goliath victory against Disney's ABC last week, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" producer Celador may now turn its fire on the William Morris Agency, Celador chairman Paul Smith told THR Monday.

Celador believes it has a case to recoup significant fees against the agent -- now part of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment -- which packaged its blockbuster show for the U.S. market eight years ago.

"We believe we have a case against William Morris and are considering all aspects of the situation," said Smith, who founded the British independent producer and created the global format blockbuster alongside Steve Knight, David Briggs and Mike Whitehill in 1998.

"We haven't decided categorically whether we have the appetite to proceed with another litigation, but we certainly believe we have the grounds to do so," he added.

Celador has what is known as "tolling agreement" in place, allowing it to freeze its case against William Morris pending the decision in the Disney case, which eventually took six years to resolve.

Now the company will review the court disclosures and evaluate its next step with its lawyers.

Smith said that for a small independent producer to take on the might of a Hollywood studio had represented a huge risk, as well as a "major distraction" in management time preparing for the case.

"A lot of small companies wouldn't embark on such a difficult journey. It took far longer than we thought that it would and it cost far more than we thought it would."

Smith said that regardless of the outcome he would do it again because of the principles at stake.

"I'd do it again -- not because we have been successful -- but because a large organization has huge resources to quash the little man. A lot of corporate injustice goes unchallenged because of that."

On Thursday a California court awarded Celador $269 million after a six-year fight for unpaid royalties. During the case witnesses called included Disney boss Bob Iger and former William Morris executives Greg Lipstone and Ben Silverman.

Following the outcome, the Disney CEO said the studio would appeal the case and told reporters: "The judge and the jury got this all wrong."