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Anschutz gets final check from Cussler in 'Sahara' case

July 27, 2009 |  7:16 pm

CusslerFields Business tycoon Philip Anschutz has received his final check from author Clive Cussler, but it may not be the end of their long and bitter legal battle.

The $8.1 million payment Anschutz got today is the remainder of money he won in a multimillion-dollar judgment against Cussler that stemmed from a fight over the 2005 action film "Sahara."

In 2007, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that Cussler breached his contract with the movie's producers and awarded Anschutz's production company Crusader Entertainment (now known as Bristol Bay Productions) $5 million. Subsequently, the court also awarded Anschutz's movie company $13.9 million in legal fees and $500,000 for additional costs, plus interest.

Today, Anschutz's attorneys notified the court that Bristol Bay had collected a total of $20.9 million from Cussler, including the final $8.1 million check.

"This is the culmination of a very long process where Anschutz and his company made sure their rights were vindicated," said Anschutz's attorney Marvin Putnam, "and the final payment is a direct statement toward that vindication."

But Cussler's attorney Bertram Fields said the final chapter is far from written since the case is pending appeal.

Anschutz "They collected the judgment. But if, as I believe, the judge's decision is reversed on appeal, then they'll have to pay all that money back with interest," Fields said, adding, "The court hasn't set a date yet for argument so we're far from the end."

Putnam responded by saying he admires his opponent's "conviction," but that he doesn't think Fields and his client stand a chance. "They've lost at every single turn, so I don't see how there's going to be a reversal of fortune," he told The Times.

Early into his foray into Hollywood in 2001, Anschutz, who made his fortune in gas, telecommunications, sports and real estate, made a deal to buy the movie rights for Cussler's Dirk Pitt series of books at a price of $10 million each.

But the partnership went awry in January 2004 after Cussler sued Anschutz's company over the big-screen version of the first novel in the series, "Sahara," saying the producers failed to honor his contractual rights guaranteeing him "sole and absolute" approval over the screenplay.

Anschutz countersued, alleging that Cussler fraudulently inflated sales numbers for the Pitt series and that the author failed to promote "Sahara" as promised. The movie, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz and was released by Paramount Pictures, turned out to be a costly flop.

--Claudia Eller

Top photo: Clive Cussler confers with attorney Bert Fields in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2007. Credit: Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Philip Anschutz. Credit: Matthew Staver, Bloomberg News.