Katzenberg wins round vs. Disney

An L.A. Superior Court judge ruled Monday in favor of attorneys for Jeffrey Katzenberg and ordered the Walt Disney Co. to turn over key documents requested by the former Disney Studios chairman, who is suing the entertainment giant for $250 million representing allegedly unpaid incentive bonuses.

While noting that there was “measured cooperation” between Disney and Katzenberg’s lawyers, Judge John Ouderkirk sided with plaintiff’s counsel and said he would compel Disney to turn over profit records so Katzenberg’s bonus could be calculated.

But Ouderkirk also told attorneys to present more evidence to a retired judge acting as discovery referee in the case, Campbell Lucas, so that remaining disputes could be resolved.

The litigation has become known in town as one of the most cantankerous filed in recent memory, with attorneys for both sides seemingly fighting every step of the proceedings.

“Disney has been stonewalling us by not wanting to give us any documents. Now today they must,” said Katzenberg attorney Bertram Fields.

Attorneys for Katzenberg began depositions of Disney studio execs including chairman Michael Eisner earlier this year.

Katzenberg claims Disney owes him for a decade of success that saw revenues jump from $245 million annually to $4.8 billion. The Katzenberg lawsuit contends his bonus was worth 2% of the studio’s profits.

Lou Meisinger, attorney for Disney, claimed during the court session that Katzenberg requested unrelated financial information about theme parks, hockey teams and stage shows, which was information to which the former executive isn’t entitled.

Ouderkirk scheduled a July 14 status hearing to learn of the decision by Lucas.

Two years after a bitter parting with Disney, Katzenberg filed the colorful breach of contract lawsuit on April 9, 1996 (Daily Variety, April 10, 1996).

Katzenberg claimed he helped create animated films “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” as well as the live-action pics “Pretty Woman” and “Sister Act,” and as a result asserts Disney should share the revenue he helped generate.

Katzenberg resigned in 1994 after Eisner didn’t promote him to corporate president, a job previously held by Frank Wells that included overseeing the company’s amusement parks and consumer products division, as well as the studio. Wells was killed in a helicopter crash.

Katzenberg has since teamed up with director Steven Spielberg and music producer David Geffen to form DreamWorks.

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