Make no mistake:Last week's jury verdict victoryfor Intertainment Licensing CEO Rudiger"Barry" Baeres over Franchise Pictures CEO Elie Samaha in their epic budgetpumping fraud lawsuit was a total annihilation of Franchise, and could suck upwhat's left of Samaha's personal war chest.
On Wednesday ina Santa Ana, California federal courtroom, Intertainment was awarded $77.1million in compensatory damages against Franchise for fraud and breach ofcontract after the jury voted unanimously that Franchise and Samaha had wildlyinflated the budgets on Franchise films that Intertainment was obligated to pay47 per cent of for pan-European rights.
For a brief timeafter the Wednesday verdict, Franchise lawyer William Price tried to put apositive spin on the outcome by noting that the jury had not indicated thatSamaha was to be financially liable for any of the damages, only the Franchiseincorporation - which is pretty much an empty shell that now only employsSamaha and Samaha's assistant.
On Friday, thejury pretty much starched and ironed the head of ex-dry cleaner magnate Samaha.
That's when thejury returned a $29 million punitive (punishment) fraud damage award in favorof Intertainment, and spread out the damage payment liability as this: $4 millionto Samaha, $1 million to Franchise Pictures LLC, and $1.5 million each to the18 one-off production companies formed to produce such Franchise films as BattlefieldEarth, Get Carter and The Whole Nine Yards.
Immediatelyafter the Friday punitive award, Intertainment lawyer Scott Edelman toldScreendaily that he will argue to federal judge Annmarie Stotler that the juryalso intended to hold Samaha personally liable for some of the$77.1million compensatory damages (out-of-pocket losses) awarded toIntertainment.
Stotler isexpected to rule on this matter when she formally enters the judgment in July.
On Thursday,Samaha was given one last chance to mitigate his losses when he testified inthe punitive phase of the hearing. In American courtrooms, this is the phasewhere civil defendants who've been hit with compensatory damages oftensuccessfully avoid punitive damages by putting on great displays of tearfulremorse and promising never again to go down their previous paths.
"I was foundguilty, and I accept the jury's decision," said Samaha under questioning byIntertainment lawyer Edelman.
But Samahawasn't finished.
"I'm going tostudios [now] to finance 100 or 80 per cent of the pictures, so I don't have todeal with international buyers that make me spend three months in court andwaste my time and the jury's time and everybody else's time'I could haveprotected myself a lot better if I'd been a lot more educated," added Samaha.
"Then this wholething was a result of you not being well-educated'" Edelman shot back.
Samaha replied,"Well, if I at least knew how to use a computer I think I would have been ableto type some things and get some things signed, but I didn't do that. So I didwrong. I was punished for it."
The message that Baeres sent to this Intertainmentshareholders was convincing: Their CEO was willing to pay over $10millionin legal fees to get a judgment that covered, at least on paper,the $77 million in fraud losses divided between the three Franchise pictures thatIntertainment accepted delivery on and letters of credit drawn down forpictures that Intertainment refused to accept delivery.
Intertainmentalso received two-thirds of the $38 million in punitive damages it was seekingto recover to pay off the $38 million write-off incurred by its Hypo Banklender after the Franchise fraud dispute broke out almost four years ago.
On Friday,Intertainment's share price on Germany's Xetra exchange closed at E5.65 inactive trading, up 90 per cent from its three-month low on June 2.