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Johnson awarded $23.2 mil in ‘Nash’ suit

Production company ordered to pay actor

A production company was ordered by a Los Angeles jury today to pay actor Don Johnson $23.2 million for his work on the television series “Nash Bridges.”

Johnson had claimed he was owed as much as $100 million for his work on the series, but attorneys for Rysher Entertainment Inc. claimed the show actually had a multimillion-dollar deficit.

During closing arguments of the trial of Johnson’s breach-of-contract lawsuit, attorney mark Holscher argued that the actor only had to complete 66 episodes, representing three years of the CBS show, in order for his copyright ownership to vest.

The show ended up running for five years and 122 episodes, Holscher said.

Rysher lawyer Bart H. Williams countered that Johnson made about $40 million from the show, mostly from his acting and producing services. He said Johnson was not entitled to anything more until “Nash Bridges” gets out from under a deficit that accountants on both sides agreed at one point was about $75 million.

“This case is about cash in, cash out,” Williams told jurors during his closing argument. “Are there profits to split from `Nash Bridges?’ The answer is no.”

When Johnson and Rysher entered into the contract in 1995, Johnson was still a hot commodity based on his earlier fame from “Miami Vice,” Holscher said, while Rysher “was dying to get into prime-time TV.”

“Don was on top of the world, one of the biggest stars in the United States,” Holscher said.

Lawyers for 2929 Entertainment, co-founded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and Qualia Capital told jurors that neither company should be in the case because, contrary to Johnson’s assertions, neither has ever owned Rysher Entertainment.

Jurors began deliberating late Tuesday.

Johnson, now 60, starred in the 1984-89 NBC detective drama “Miami Vice” prior to “Nash Bridges,” which aired from March 1996 to May 2001.

The lawsuit Johnson filed in February 2009 alleged that because he was a co-owner of the copyright — producing with the Don Johnson Co. and Carlton Cuse Productions in association with Rysher Entertainment and later Paramount Television — he is entitled to half of the show’s profits.

The series that ran six seasons earned more than $300 million in revenues and more than $150 million from syndication, according to Johnson’s court papers.

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