Stephen Baldwin Testifies in BP Lawsuit Against Kevin Costner
NEW ORLEANS — Stephen Baldwin testified Monday that no one asked him to invest any capital or join Kevin Costner in lobbying BP to use oil cleanup devices that the two actors were touting in the aftermath of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Baldwin said he used his celebrity to market and promote the oil-separating centrifuges while he also worked on a documentary about the nation's worst offshore oil spill.
"When you're famous, it opens doors and things like that," said Baldwin, the youngest brother of fellow actor Alec Baldwin.
Baldwin and friend Spyridon Contogouris sued Costner and business partner Patrick Smith, claiming they were duped into selling their shares of the company that marketed the devices to BP and were cheated out of millions of dollars.
Baldwin, who received $500,000 for his shares, said he would have held out for much more if he had known the company had agreed to make an $18 million deposit on a $52 million order for 32 centrifuges.
Baldwin said he could have drummed up money to invest in their company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, if his partners had asked him, even though he was mired in bankruptcy proceedings at the time.
"I could have asked my big brother," Baldwin said.
On Friday, Costner said he never saw Baldwin contribute anything to the company and wondered what Baldwin was doing to help. Costner also recalled that Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling had begged Baldwin and Contogouris not to sell their shares shortly before BP committed to buying the devices.
Baldwin described himself as a "door opener" for Houghtaling who gave radio and television interviews about the centrifuge technology in the weeks after the spill. Baldwin also recalled meeting with Plaquemines Parish Billy Nungesser to discuss the machines.
"My job was to market and promote," Baldwin said. "I had no responsibilities relevant to getting the devices in the water."
Like Costner, Baldwin said his primary interest in the deal was helping protect the coast from the spill.
"I wanted the machines to work," he said. "Make some money? Great. Not my first motivation."
Baldwin, whose testimony resumes Tuesday, said he had offered to give up 5 percent of his ownership stake in Ocean Therapy Solutions to appease Costner when the business partners first negotiated their ownership interests in the fledgling company.
Costner had felt "undervalued" and appeared to be in a bad mood when the terms were first discussed, Baldwin recalled. Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 2010 dinner meeting at which BP executive Doug Suttles committed to ordering the centrifuges.
Baldwin said he relied on Contogouris' advice when they sold their shares in the aftermath of that meeting.
"I trusted him unequivocally," he said, insisting he had no reason to believe a deal was imminent. A lawyer for Smith asked Baldwin why he believed $500,000 was a fair return on his shares.
"Spyro told me it was," Baldwin said.
Contogouris sold his shares for $1.4 million. BP deployed a few of the centrifuges on a barge in June 2010. The company capped the well the following month, and it was permanently sealed in September 2010.