‘Anne’ libel trial finally under way

Producer of miniseries suing author's heirs

TORONTO — The first week of the C$55 million ($42 million) “Anne of Green Gables” libel trial is coming to an end in a Toronto court.

Sullivan Entertainment, producer of the successful “Anne” miniseries and spinoffs, is suing the heirs of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the novels, plus their lawyer and public relations firm.

Suit relates to allegations made at a 1999 news conference held by Montgomery’s daughter Ruth Macdonald, now 88, and granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler. The two women claimed that Sullivan owed the heirs substantial royalties. Sullivan claims the announcement and the surrounding publicity sank its initial public offering. Analysts at the time put its failure down to bad press and poor market conditions. Sullivan filed its defamation suit a short time later.

Montgomery’s family sold the rights to the story of the stubborn red-head from Prince Edward Island to Sullivan in 1985 for $324,000 and 10% of net profits in perpetuity. Sullivan maintained that, despite becoming the most-watched show at the time in Canadian TV history and having been sold worldwide, the “Anne” series failed to generate any profits and therefore no royalties were owed. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

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