Couple audibly wins legal tale of the tape

Judge orders NewStar to make monthly payments of $25,000

New Millennium Entertainment co-presidents Michael Viner and wife Deborah Raffin have won another round in their long-running legal battle with NewStar Media, current owner of the audio book company they founded 15 years ago under the name Dove Entertainment.

In Friday’s ruling, retired judge Philip E. Schwab, acting as arbitrator, declared a noncompete clause in the couple’s termination agreement was void and unenforceable under California law.

The decision on the noncompete clause frees the couple to use the services of scores of former NewStar authors and celebrity readers at New Millennium, the Beverly Hills-based film and television production company they started in 1998. NewStar had claimed that the Viners were barred from using the authors and readers for any purpose.

The judge also ordered NewStar to make monthly payments of $25,000 due the couple under their termination agreement in cash, rather than in stock. NewStar also was directed to deliver 10 copies each of dozens of audio books and books initiated during the couple’s tenure at NewStar but published after they left, and to return a tapestry belonging to Raffin.

“Deborah and I were gratified with the outcome of this arbitration, especially because it comes hand in hand with the Williams & Connolly verdict,” said Viner, referring to a previous decision against the Washington, D.C., law firm that represented the couple in their termination agreement with NewStar in 1997.

The couple claimed, among other things, that Williams & Connolly failed to protect their right to receive monthly payments and failed to ensure their ability to produce theatrical and television projects in their new company.

There also have been a series of arbitrations involving the scope of the noncompete clauses in their termination agreement, as well as other issues. Last year, a judge ruled that a noncompete clause that prohibited the couple from getting into the audio-book business was valid. That decision is on appeal.

Attorney Michael Glickfeld represented the couple.

NewStar did not return calls seeking comment.