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HFPA was perceived as joke, former Dick Clark executive says

Uggie the dog on the Globes red carpetThe Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., owner of the Golden Globe Awards, was "considered somewhat a joke," before Dick Clark Productions partnered with the association on the television show, a former top executive at the company testified Wednesday.

Fran LaMaina, the retired president and chief operating officer of Dick Clark Productions, said the perception of the HFPA was that of a "scandalous organization" whose "votes were bought" back in the early 1980s. LaMaina made his statements during the second day of a legal battle going on between HFPA and Dick Clark Productions in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles over who controls the TV rights to the annual awards show.

He was referring to a scandal in the late 1960s over how the HFPA selected winners for the Golden Globes that drove the show off of network television after the Federal Communications Commission said the association was misleading viewers. The show, which about a decade later reappeared on television, was ridiculed in the early 1980s for giving entertainer Pia Zadora an award.

"Dick Clark's reputation was the antithesis of the HFPA," LaMaina said. He added that Dick Clark and his production company would need to rebuild the Golden Globes to bring it some credibility. He was being questioned by attorney Marty Katz (of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP), who is representing Dick Clark Productions in the case.

The two sides are debating the meaning of a 1993 amendment to their partnership agreement, which is almost 30 years old. Dick Clark Productions, now owned by Red Zone Capital, a private equity firm headed by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, claims the amendment gives it the power to negotiate a new TV deal with NBC, the longtime home of the Globes, without HFPA approval.

"The contract says no such thing," said Daniel Petrocelli, the O'Melveny & Myers lawyer who is representing the HFPA, in his opening remarks on Tuesday. The HFPA wanted to shop the show to other networks to drive up the license fee.

The actions of Dick Clark Productions prevented "the rights from being sold to the highest bidder," Petrocelli said, adding that the suggestion that the HFPA would have signed an agreement that would allow that "defies common sense."

The HFPA has accused Dick Clark Productions, which is now headed by Mark Shapiro, a former top executive at ESPN with long ties to Snyder, of trying to steal control of the glitzy event at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

On Tuesday, Petrocelli questioned LaMaina and tried to suggest that the former top lieutenant to Dick Clark had misled the HFPA on the significance of the 1993 amendment.

"I don't think I misled the Hollywood Foreign Press," LaMaina said Tuesday, adding that explaining the amendment wasn't his job.

In his opening remarks, Katz suggested the reason for the trial is that there are factions of the HFPA who want to change the deal and have wanted out of the agreement since Dick Clark Productions was sold to Mosaic Media Group in 2004. Red Zone acquired DCP in 2007.

The trial is expected to last a few weeks, and other witnesses include Mark Shapiro and former NBC business affairs chief Marc Graboff.

RELATED:

Retired Dick Clark Productions exec testifies in Globes trial

HFPA strategy starts to emerge in Globes trial

Legal battle spins around Globes

— Joe Flint

Photo: Uggie, the dog from "The Artist," on the red carpet at the Golden Globes. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press.

 
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