'Columbo' Creators Awarded $70M in Universal Profits Fight

Columbo-Photofest-H 2019

Universal City Studios must pay nearly $70.7 million in back profits and interest to the creators of Columbo, as an L.A. judge on Thursday entered judgement following a three-phase trial.

William Link and heirs of Richard Levinson in November 2017 sued, through their corporate entities, claiming they weren't paid their share of profits from the '70s detective series until 45 years later, and, even then, they were shorted.

A jury earlier this year unanimously found that Universal is not allowed to a distribution fee from gross profits when it acts as distributor and that plaintiffs hadn't waited too long to sue. A bench trial before L.A. Superior Court Judge Richard Burdge followed to determine remaining issues and then a third phase involved a panel of three accounting referees who assessed damages. 

Those referees in July determined Universal should pay $76.95 million in damages. Each side objected to certain parts of the report and the court largely overruled them, but asked the accounting panel to address questions concerning the percentages they used to calculate the plaintiffs' share of net profits. In September, they revised their award and found the plaintiffs should be paid just over $66.9 million plus prejudgement interest. The resulting total is just about $70.68 million.

Burdge on Thursday entered judgement against Universal, ordering it to pay Foxcroft Productions and Fairmont Productions $35.34 million each.