Tuesday hearing centered on contract terminology

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Dick Clark Prods. each sought summary judgment in federal court Tuesday in a case that could determine who produces and who will broadcast the lucrative Golden Globes ceremony.

A hearing before Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank focused on interpretation of contract language, but it also brought to the fore longtime rifts between the HFPA and its former president, Mirjana Van Blaricom, who started her own press association, the Intl. Press Academy, with its own kudos, the Golden Satellites, in the mid-1990s.

At the center of the dispute is a clause in a 1993 amendment to an agreement that the HFPA made with DCP. In November, the HFPA filed

U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank focused on interpretation of contract language, but it also brought to the fore longtime rifts between the HFPA and its former president, Mirjana Van Blaricom, who started her own press association, the Intl. Press Academy, with its own kudos, the Golden Satellites, in the mid-1990s.

At the center of the dispute is a clause in a 1993 amendment to an agreement that the HFPA made with DCP. In November, the HFPA filed suit against the longtime producer of its kudocast, charging that DCP had struck a deal with NBC to air the ceremony though 2018 even though the HFPA had not given its consent.

DCP, controlled by Dan Snyder’s Red Zone Capital, claims it could make such a deal because language in the 1993 amendment gave it options to produce the show “in perpetuity” as long as DCP could forge agreements to keep the kudocast on NBC.

At the hearing, Daniel Petrocelli, representing the HFPA, argued that only recently, since DCP struck an agreement with NBC without the org’s consent, has DCP asserted that it has such an “infinite” number of options. The HFPA says that DCP’s options ran through 2005 and, after an extension, ended with this year’s telecast.

The HFPA also claims that in 1993, its execs were “misled” by DCP executive Francis La Maina in that he spoke to the membership in great detail about the amendment but they were made to believe that “they were authorizing the grant of only eight options.” Although Van Blaricom, who was prexy of the HFPA at the time, signed the amendment, the HFPA claims she did not have the authority to “grant DCP infinite options” because such a provision needed approval of membership.

Petrocelli told the court Tuesday that there is “no evidence we ever endorsed or ratified any idea of perpetual rights.” He called it “preposterous” that the HFPA would give up its most valuable asset.

But Bradley Phillips, representing Dick Clark Prods., said the HFPA was aware of the perpetual rights clause since at least since 2002 and only recently challenged Van Blaricom’s authority. Phillips called the HFPA’s argument “the equivalent of a desperate Hail Mary pass in football” and said Van Blaricom had “ostensible and actual authority” to enter into the 1993 deal. He also said the HFPA’s acceptance of a hefty portion of its license fee from the NBC deal, even after 2005, showed a “ratification of our interpretation of the extensions clause.”

In a statement released Monday, Van Blaricom said she “signed, with full authority in the presence of the sitting membership, this 1993 amendment that was approved with more than 90% of the HFPA members in attendance.”If no motion for summary judgment is granted to either side, the trial is scheduled to start Aug. 30.

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