William E. Wegner, the entertainment lawyer who successfully defended Curtis Management Group and the family of James Dean in a licensing fight with Warner Bros., has left Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to become general counsel at Tricor Entertainment.
Wegner also will sit on Tricor’s board of directors.
In addition to its independent production activities, Tricor also operates Matrix Sound Studios. The company’s principals are Howard Kazanjian, Darian and Peter Saphier.
Wegner led the battle on behalf of the James Dean Foundation, the Dean family and Curtis Management after Warners had filed suit to legally prove it had the licensing rights to merchandise related to the late actor.
The $ 90 million suit was knocked out of court in July 1992 after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the contract Dean had signed prior to filming “East of Eden” only gave the studio rights to sell and advertise the three films Dean starred in prior to his death.
It had been Warners’ claim that a clause in its standard contract allowed it to not only use Dean’s likeness and image in perpetuity for commercial tie-ins to the film, but also for merchandising unrelated to the film.
While Dean’s image has become synonymous with Hollywood and has managed to generate more than $ 30 million in merchandising sales since 1984, the outcome of the case will likely influence future merchandising fights.
Additionally, Wegner was one of the attorneys who defended the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in a suit filed by the state attorney general. The outcome of that suit resulted in the Chamber retaining merchandising rights to the Hollywood Sign and the Walk of Fame.