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$4-million judgment upheld in lawsuit against A&E Television

April 12, 2011 |  4:04 pm

A South Carolina investor has prevailed in his nearly five-year legal battle against A&E Television Networks over the origin of the once-hot show "Flip This House."

A federal appeals court this week upheld a lower-court ruling that A&E must pay slightly more than $4 million to real estate investor Richard Davis for his share of profits from the show. A&E had appealed the 2008 ruling and was seeking a new trial.

Davis sued New York-based A&E -- owned by Hearst Corp., Walt Disney Co. and NBCUniversal -- in 2006, alleging that executives of the cable channel reneged on their promise to pay him half of the profits from the program. Davis, in 2004, came up with the concept for a show about house flipping. 

Although there was no written contract, Davis contended that A&E agreed to split the show's revenues 50-50 -- an unusually high percentage for the TV industry.

"Flip This House" debuted in 2005 at the height of the housing boom. The inaugural season featured the feisty Davis and sidekick Ginger buying and fixing up properties. The show, along with the real estate market, ran out of steam and was canceled in 2009.

Although the courts determined that A&E should have put the agreement in writing, they said an oral agreement was enforceable.

The $4-million award was roughly half the revenue generated by the show during its first season. Davis and A&E had a falling-out after the first season, and the network brought in a new team of real estate agents to continue the show's production. Davis, 47, was not paid for his role in the show. 

"I'm tickled to death that I stuck with my case," Davis said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "It was a matter of principle. The show was my idea, I created it, and they stole it. But I'm not bitter anymore."

An A&E spokesman declined to comment.

-- Meg James