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The ex-publicist for failed Broadway musical Rebecca didn’t defame producers by using pseudonyms to scare off investors, a New York jury found Wednesday.
After two days of deliberation, The New York Times reports, the jury awarded $90,000 in compensatory damages to the show’s producers, Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza. In addition to rejecting the defamation claim against the publicist, Marc Thibodeau, the jury also declined to award any punitive damages.
The strange history of this lawsuit began in 2012. Broadway producers, led by Sprecher, had planned a $12 million stage adaptation of the 1938 Daphne du Maurier book, but came up $4.5 million short. Former stockbrocker Mark Hotton told producers he had overseas investors on board, but, in reality, he was making them up — and even created phony email addresses and conversations to back his story up. (He later pled guilty to wire fraud charges.)
After Hotton told producers one of the fake investors had died of malaria, Thibodeau got suspicious. After being told “don’t go there” by Sprecher, according to court documents, the publicist began anonymously emailing potential investors, before eventually using the pseudonym “Sarah Finkelstein” to warn one about the “prospect of fraud, an ongoing money shortage, a bad public perception, anemic ticket sales and a rabid press corps.”
Thibodeau’s legal team tried to paint him as an innocent whistleblower, but the courts didn’t buy it and found him liable for breach of contract. According to the Times, the jury found the publicist should pay $5,000 for that breach and $85,000 for tortious interference.
Producers are currently working to revive the musical on Broadway.
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