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HFPA suit vs. Dick Clark Prods. proceeds

Judge refuses dismissal motion

A federal judge has refused to dismiss the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s suit against Dick Clark Prods. over rights to the Golden Globe Awards.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank’s tentative ruling on Monday leaves unanswered the question of just who will produce and televise the 2012 ceremony, slated for the third or fourth week in January. A trial is scheduled to start on Sept. 6.

“The show will go on, one way or another,” said attorney Linda J. Smith, representing the HFPA. “We’ll do it with NBC or another network.”

Philip Berk, the president of the HFPA, said, “We will continue the right to reclaim all of our rights.”

In a suit filed in November, the HFPA alleged that Dick Clark Prods. and Red Zone Capital Partners, controlled by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, negotiated a long-term extension of the telecast rights with NBC without their approval, and that they negotiated other licenses without their consent. Among other things, the HFPA’s suit also alleges Red Zone put up Golden Globes and pre-shows as security to obtain a $165 million loan to pay debt and fund other operations, even though they did not have the right to do so.

Red Zone’s attorneys, seeking to have the case thrown out, argued that they were within their rights because DCP’s agreement with HFPA was “unambiguous” and included no clause specifying that HFPA had consent. In fact, they have pointed to a clause in a 1993 agreement that appeared to give DCP options to produce the ceremony “in perpetuity” as long as it reached an agreement with NBC.

But in her tentative ruling, Fairbank wrote that the HFPA had “sufficiently shown” that the provision of the contract was “reasonably susceptible” to “competing interpretations” and added that the court may consider so-called “extrinsic evidence” to resolve the meaning of the contract. She did dismiss one claim of breach of fiduciary duty and said that the HFPA had yet to establish “independent facts” showing that one existed.

“We are thrilled,” Smith said shortly after the ruling. “It’s a huge victory, that’s the bottom line.”

A spokeswoman for DCP said they would have no comment until a final ruling is issued.

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