11:59am PT by Eriq Gardner
Celador Defends $319 Million 'Millionaire' Verdict; How It Hopes To Beat Disney's Appeal
Celador International, the producer of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, has just filed a lengthy brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, explaining why it deserves to be handed $319 million from The Walt Disney Co. as compensation for being cheated out of profits from the game show.
To quickly recap, Celador successfully convinced a jury last year that Disney subsidiaries ABC and Buena Vista Television had concocted self-dealing arrangements amongst themselves in an effort to hide hundreds of millions of dollars.
Celador made the winning arguments by showing jurors how an even 50/50 split of profits on Millionaire was agreed upon, and how when it came time to split profits, the show that propelled ABC to the top of network ratings was showing a financial "loss" of $73 million, meaning Celador would get none of the estimated $515 million the show raked in from advertising and syndication.
Celador's attorneys painted this as "classic Hollywood accounting," whereby ABC had cooked the books by most importantly, coming to a secret agreement with BTV so that its sister company got Millionaire license rights in exchange for a license fee meant to cover production costs. Celador says the arrangement meant that no matter how big a success the show turned out to be, Millionaire would never show a profit for ABC.
Earlier this year, Disney filed an appeal and presented arguments how the judge in the case made errors on the road to a jury's whopping verdict,. In particular, the entertainment giant said the judge should have made a summary judgement based on the "plaint text of the contract," that the judge had wrongfully excluded evidence from agents who had worked on the deal, and that the judge had erroneously allowed testimony that inflated the amount of damages in the case.
On Friday, Celador offered its rebuttal, spending a good deal of ink describing the injustice of the situation before getting down to the nitty gritty on why the judge had exercised proper discretion in allowing a jury to weigh the meaning of Celador's contract and how it was damaged.
Contrary to Disney's claims that the agreement with Celador was unambiguous on its face, Celador says that the contract "isn't just reasonably susceptible to a reading that ABC promised to share Millionaire profits -- that is its most reasonable reading."
Celador also disputes the defendant's point that the agents' understanding of the deal is dispositive because they would only testify to how deals in the industry typically worked -- an "irrelevant" observation, according to Celador -- instead of offering an assessment of the unique Millionaire deal.
Celador also says that the evidence presented on damages was more than adequate and consistent with a reasonable fair market license fee analysis.
Here's Celador's full explanation of what happened and how the dispute was properly presented to a jury for judgement: