Garry Shandling’s megabucks case against his former manager and friend Brad Grey was dealt a major setback Thursday when L.A. Superior Court Judge Ralph Dau dismissed claims that the actor is entitled to a portion of profits from Grey’s lucrative television deals with ABC and Columbia Pictures Television.
Dau also appeared inclined to dismiss a similar claim for a portion of profits on Grey’s $79 million deal with MCA, but stopped short of a ruling and ordered the parties back into court next month for further argument on the issues.
Shandling’s attorney, Laurence Silverman, contended that the case had not suffered any mortal damage, saying, “Nothing that happened today changes the fact that we’re going to go before a jury with very serious charges.
“Still surviving are our core claims of breach of fiduciary duty that are of importance to artists as more managers branch out into producing.”
Dripping with sarcasm, Grey’s attorney Bert Fields said, “Yeah, sure he still has a big case. Shandling’s overblown sound bite may play well with the media, but we are fortunate to have a very bright judge who sees that his extravagant claims are contradicted by the demonstrable facts.”
Thursday’s hearing was one in a series of tense pretrial conferences, with Dau appearing irritated, at times saying, “I get it” and “Let’s move on.”
Shandling filed his conflict of interest lawsuit in January 1998.
Marking the bitter end of an 18-year relationship, the complaint alleged that Grey used his dual position as manager and executive producer of the comedian’s HBO series “The Larry Sanders Show” to “triple-dip” by taking excess commissions and fees out of the show.
Shandling also alleged that, as Grey’s cornerstone client, he should have been included in a series of lucrative TV deals Grey made with Columbia, ABC and MCA, and is entitled to a share of the profits, an amount Shandling has estimated at $100 million.
Of the judge’s rulings Thursday, the dismissal of the ABC claim is the most important. Shandling has claimed that he was entitled to share in profits from Brillstein-Grey’s 1994 agreement with ABC to produce TV programming.
But in a sworn statement submitted by Grey’s attorneys, ABC chairman Robert Iger said, “Mr. Shandling was, quite simply, not a factor in the negotiation of the ABC agreement.” Shandling’s attorneys disputed that characterization, pointing to an “absolute first-look” agreement and a consulting agreement Brillstein-Grey signed with Shandling shortly after the ABC pact as proof of his importance to the deal.
Dau, however, ruled that there was no evidence showing Shandling was a factor and dismissed the claim.
Shandling conceded in court papers that he would not pursue his claim that he was entitled to a share from Brillstein-Grey’s 1991 deal with Columbia for syndication rights for all Brillstein-Grey series in exchange for an advance to cover deficit funding of their shows. Dau also officially dismissed that claim Thursday.
As for the MCA deal, Shandling maintains that he was a factor in the company’s purchase of a stake in Brillstein-Grey in 1995 and he should have had an opportunity to sell his portion of the show to MCA.
Although Shandling’s attorneys have dropped their claim to a direct financial participation in the Columbia deal, they will pursue claims that Columbia recouped payments out of the show’s general budget rather than Grey’s share.
Although the claim to a direct participation in the ABC deal has been dismissed, Shandling still claims he was entitled to $20 million under his consulting agreement. Apparently, also surviving are Shandling’s claims that Grey promised him a gross participation in “NewsRadio” and a claim that it was unfair for Grey to take 50% of “Larry Sanders” under their partnership agreement.