Globes trial zeroes in on key meetings

Soria recalls 2001 discussion of proposed NBC pact

In the trial over the rights to the Golden Globes, Dick Clark Prods. has tried to show that the company practically rescued the kudocast from near oblivion and won it years of lucrative new contracts.

But taking the stand on Wednesday, Philip Berk, who has served as president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. multiple times, took issue with the notion that DCP deserves so much credit.

“Success of the Golden Globes is dependent on the Hollywood Foreign Press and its relationship with studios and stars,” he said.

Berk is a key witness in the case, as he presided over the HFPA when it filed its suit in 2010, claiming that DCP entered into a new contract with NBC without its permission.

DCP said it could, citing an “extensions” clause in a 1993 amendment to an earlier agreement giving it options to produce the show as long as it can land a deal with the Peacock network. Who gets the credit for building up the Globes is a side issue to the contract dispute, but it underscores the acrimony between the press org and its longtime producer.

Berk’s testimony is expected to focus Thursday on to when he was aware that the interpretation of the “extensions” clause was in dispute, with attorneys for DCP trying to establish inconsistencies in what he said in a deposition and what he says on the witness stand.

Among other things, the HFPA’s attorneys have been trying to show that Dick Clark’s No. 2, Francis LaMaina failed to mention the existence of the clause when he appeared before a membership meeting in September, 1993.

But LaMaina testified that when he left copies of the amendment with members, it was up to them to take a look at it and decide. In arguing for their interpretation of the contract, the HFPA says that members have given approval to previous agreements.

Often cited is a July, 2001 membership meeting. But the minutes of that gathering make no mention of any discussion of a proposed, $100 million new pact with NBC that would have given the network rights to the show over 10 years.

Lorenzo Soria, an HFPA member and former board member and president, said that he was “reasonably certain” that an approval took place in which the org gave its signoff to the deal. He said that it was a “logical deduction according to history and tradition” that members would have weighed in on such an important contract.

He also said that the transcript of a meeting the next year, in which he reminded LaMaina that members had voted on the NBC deal, refreshed his memory.

Another member, Scott Orlin, who also has served on the board, said that he recalled LaMaina addressing the membership and that there was a vote after he left. The president of the HFPA at the time, Dagmar Dunlevy, sent out a letter to the members on July 19 in which she talked about the deal.

“There is no way the president would have been authorized to put it out without membership approval,” Orlin said.

But attorneys for DCP challenge whether such approval ever took place, citing a dearth of written evidence that it occurred. Dunlevy’s letter also includes a reference to LaMaina coming to a membership meeting the following month to answer questions about the deal.

They also have attempted to show inconsistencies between sworn statements that Soria made to the court and in what he said on the witness stand, typically over how certain he is in his memory of events.