×

Mouse looses cheese over sports complex

Disney ordered to pay $240 mil over alleged stolen idea

A Florida jury has ordered the Walt Disney Co. to pay $240 million to a former baseball umpire and an architect, who claimed the media and entertainment giant stole their idea for an Orlando sports complex that’s spring-training home to the Atlanta Braves.

Opened in 1997, Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex also houses tennis courts, a soccer field and other athletic facilities, drawing crowds of 1.2 million people a year. Former minor-league umpire Nicholas Stracick of Buffalo, N.Y., and architect Edward Russell of Fonthill, Ont. — filing in Orange County Circuit Court as All Pro Sports Camps — claimed they came up with the idea for the complex and pitched it to Disney in 1987.

The plaintiffs were represented by Stuart, Fla., attorney Willie Gary, who was assisted by high-profile Los Angeles attorney Johnnie Cochran. All Pro had asked for $1.6 billion in damages, and because Disney was found to have acted with malicious intent, a judge still could increase the amount awarded by the jury.

Disney executive vice president and general counsel Lou Meisinger said the decision was without merit and a motion to vacate the jury’s verdict and monetary award will be filed within 10 days. He noted that the contention that the Burbank-based conglom had stolen the actual design was dismissed during the trial.

This verdict is “entirely based on the notion that Disney misappropriated the concept for this sports complex,” Meisinger said. “The idea that Disney, a world leader in innovation, would have to borrow a generic idea like a sports complex — an idea that has been around since the ancient Greeks — is completely preposterous.”

Prejudicial evidence claimed

Disney will argue that the jury’s verdict, delivered Friday after 12 hours of deliberations, went against the weight of evidence. It will also contend that prejudicial evidence was allowed into the case, Meisinger said. “If necessary, we will exercise the full measure of our appellate remedies,” he said.

Attorney Gary described Disney’s reaction to the verdict as “sour grapes.” He added: “It’s the normal stuff you say when you take a beating. They’re crybabies.”

Also Friday, Disney was sued in U.S. District Court in New York by Indian media group L.K. Modi, which contends that Disney’s ESPN reneged on a 1994 agreement to partner on a cable sports channel in India.

Last month, Disney was sued over allegations that its theme parks and cruise ships fail to meet federal disabled-access standards.

More Biz

  • Roc Nation Label Names Shari Bryant

    Roc Nation Label Names Shari Bryant and Omar Grant Co-Presidents

    Roc Nation has named Shari Bryant and Omar Grant co-presidents of the Roc Nation Label, the company announced today. The two will lead the Roc Nation team to develop strategies for signed artists while continuing to build the talent roster, according to the announcement. “There is no better way to celebrate my 20th anniversary in the [...]

  • Bert Salke and Jennifer Salke

    Feds Looked Into Amazon Studios Chief Jennifer Salke in College Admissions Scandal

    Federal investigators looked into Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and her husband, Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke, as they conducted a sprawling probe of cheating in elite college admissions, a source close to the case told Variety. It does not appear, however, that prosecutors will charge the Salkes in the case. The Salkes [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Big Blackout Looms as CBS, AT&T Go Down to Wire on Renewal Talks

    A blackout affecting CBS stations in major markets throughout the country looms as CBS and AT&T executives go down to the wire on negotiations for a retransmission consent deal covering 28 O&O stations. The sides have sparred publicly during the past few days as 11 p.m. PT Friday expiration of the previous contract approached. AT&T [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    ICM Responds to WGA Packaging Lawsuit: Claims are 'Baseless' and 'Absurd'

    ICM Partners has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed against four major talent agencies by the Writers Guild of America as part of the larger war between agencies and the guild over packaging fees on TV series and movies. The guild sued ICM, CAA, WME and UTA in California state court in April, [...]

  • New York City NYC Placeholder

    CityFM Podcast Takes a Deep Look at New York’s Music Scene (Listen)

    First among the many projects listed at the beginning of New York Music Month in June was a WNYE radio show and podcast called CityFM that promised to “explore the city’s music culture, emerging artists and trends, and upcoming events told through the lens of what’s happening around the city in Summer 2019.” And while [...]

  • Live Nation Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Live Nation)

    Live Nation Confirms Placing Tickets Directly on Secondary Market at Artists’ Request

    Representatives for Live Nation, the world’s largest live-entertainment company and owner of Ticketmaster, confirmed that it bypassed conventional channels and directly placed thousands of concert tickets on the secondary market upon artists’ request, in an article published in Billboard. In a statement shared with Variety, the company acknowledged that it has facilitated the transfer of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content