HFPA strategy in Golden Globes trial starts to emerge
The strategy of the Golden Globes owner, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., in its legal fight with Dick Clark Productions over who controls the television rights for the awards show became clear during the first day of the trial at U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
The battle grew out of a 2010 deal that Dick Clark Productions, which has produced the show for HFPA for almost 30 years, made with NBC to keep the Golden Globes on the network through 2018. That deal, worth about $150 million, was to go into effect starting with this year's show. Soon after Dick Clark Productions and NBC signed the contract, the HFPA filed a lawsuit charging that Dick Clark Productions violated the partnership because it did not have the organization's approval to renew the deal with NBC.
Dick Clark Productions has countered that a 1993 amendment to its partnership with the HFPA gave it the rights to to negotiate with NBC in perpetuity without the HFPA's consent, which would allow it to continue to be a 50-50 partner with the HFPA on the show. The HFPA disagrees.
"The contract says no such thing," said Daniel Petrocelli, the O'Melveny & Myers lawyer who is representing the HFPA, in his opening remarks. He added that the actions of Dick Clark Productions prevented "the rights from being sold to the highest bidder." The suggestion that HFPA would have signed an agreement that would allow that, he said, "defies common sense."
Petrocelli spent the first day of the trial grilling Fran LaMaina, the retired president of Dick Clark Productions who oversaw the company and its deal-making with the HFPA in 1993. Petrocelli kept asking LaMaina if the executive had made to clear to HFPA in 1993 how significant that amendment was to Dick Clark Productions.
"It was not my responsibility," LaMaina said in response, adding that he didn't think he "misled the Hollywood Foreign Press."
What Petrocelli appears to be trying to establish, however, is not that LaMaina should have told HFPA what Dick Clark Productions thought the amendment meant. Rather he is attempting to show that LaMaina and DCP did not have that interpretation of the amendment at the time. Getting LaMaina to acknowledge that he never discussed the idea that Dick Clark Productions would have the rights to co-produce the show in perpetuity as long as NBC held the rights seems aimed at proving that Dick Clark Productions is engaged in revisionist history and only recently decided that this amendment gave them the rights to renegotiate with NBC without HFPA approval.
LaMaina is expected to testify for much of Wednesday as well. Later in the week, current Dick Clark Productions President Mark Shapiro is expected to take the stand, as is former NBC business affairs head Marc Graboff, who was involved in negotiating the deal.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes. Credit: EPA.