On Friday, Nov. 7, Katzenberg v. Walt Disney Company looked like a sure bet to go to trial. Los Angeles attorney Bert Fields had begun the intensive process of prepping his client, Jeffrey Katzenberg, for trial against his former employer.
The lawyers at Disney may not have been whistling while they worked, but they were far from idle. On that same day, the Magic Kingdom served separate subpoenas to Mr. Katzenberg’s two Dreamworks SKG partners, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, ordering them to appear as witnesses when the case went to trial Nov. 18 in State Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles. Nearly simultaneously, Mr Katzenberg’s fax was humming with personal notes from Mr. Eisner, “whining”-in the words of one insider-why he couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t agree to the proposed settlement worked out by both sides’ lawyers a day earlier. (Mr. Eisner apparently has turned down two other such settlement proposals in the two years the case has dragged on.) Mr. Katzenberg and Mr. Eisner had even attempted a sit-down, at the urging of the Superior Court judges, at the Hotel Intercontinental on Halloween. But the hoped-for rapprochement was dashed when Mr. Katzenberg left in a huff-but not before dramatically shouting over his shoulder that the next time he’d see Mr. Eisner would be “in court.”
So, at the end of the day on Nov. 7, Mr. Fields recalled, “I was looking forward to a classic trial.”
Alas, Mr. Fields is very disappointed. (His client, on the other hand, is very thrilled.) Call it the Miracle on Olive Street, but late, late, late on Friday night, an agreement was reached. Now Mr. Katzenberg gets his money, and Mr. Eisner gets his book. Indeed, a Random House spokesman said the book was in the final editing stage and would be released early in 1998.
Meanwhile, sources familiar with the situation tell The Observer that Mr. Katzenberg insisted on the floor price of $100 million “because he wanted at least the same money Eisner gave to [ousted Disney president Michael] Ovitz to go away.” Eventually, a court referee will determine how much Mr. Katzenberg will get, but word is it could take months to arrive at a final figure because of ancillary projects that have sprung from Katzenberg-sired projects, such as the Broadway production of The Lion King. (He could conceivably get an annuity for life.)
So, how? The answer is simple. For both sides, a Higher Order was gazing upon the coming trial with horror. Disney’s H.O. was its board of directors, who, even though widely derided as the insiders’ board of all insiders’ boards, felt Mr. Eisner was a fool to set one foot into a courtroom (and on Nov. 8, they agreed to settle the deal). For Dreamworks, It was the one-two power punch of Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Geffen, who, to put it frankly, are the company’s gods. So the Disney board ordered Mr. Eisner to settle, and the Dreamworks duo urged Mr. Katzenberg to back down.
Looking back, it was another example of Hollywood brinkmanship, or flop sweat, as the case may be.
Donald Does Not Pass Go
Donald Trump does not know how to play Monopoly. At least, Mr. Trump didn’t know the rules, let alone the art, of playing the real estate board game when he walked into the annual “Evening of Monopoly” that the students and alumni of New York University throw every year to benefit the university’s Real Estate Institute.
Mr. Trump apparently was the guest of Ethan Penner, the hotshot president of Nomura Asset Capital Corporation, which recently relocated to San Francisco. Mr. Penner had flown in especially for the occasion, which regularly draws New York real estate’s Masters of the Universe, such as Andrew Farkas, chairman of Insignia-Edward S. Gordon Company, and, occasionally, a generous supply of cleverly concealed extra Monopoly money (for emergency face-saving purposes).
One source familiar with the situation said that when Mr. Trump sauntered into the Puck Building with his date, model Kara Young (whom he apparently kept identifying as a broker), he seemed surprised that he might actually have to play the game, then finally admitted he didn’t know how, which conjures up all sorts of forlorn images of Mr. Trump’s childhood.
Coming to Mr. Trump’s rescue was William Cohen, vice president of Newmark & Company Real Estate Inc., who gave the mogul a quick how-to. “I told him, here’s Boardwalk and Park Place; stick with the blues, the yellows, the greens. The utilities only pay a modest return, so don’t bother with them.” Mr. Trump’s Monopoly competitors for the evening included Mr. Farkas and Mr. Penner, but the men never got around to playing. Instead, they sat over the closed game box and talked, perhaps out of charity to Mr. Trump. But Mr. Cohen disputed such a notion, saying: “My guess is that there were better deal-making opportunities to be had without the game board.” Through a spokesman, Mr. Trump said that “none” of his tablemates knew how to play.
By the way, one source said that the big winners of the evening were Steve Witkoff, president of the Witkoff Group, and Insignia president Steve Siegal, “who pooled their properties, created a joint venture and kicked ass,” amassing $35,000 worth of property and cash. Apparently, however, that total exceeded the cash and property that’s actually contained in a Monopoly box, leading some to believe that some funny money had floated into the game.
Makes a Killing
Nancy Richardson may have lost a husband, but not her business savvy. The former spouse of Frank Richardson, whose affair with U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood prompted her resignation from society in 1995, recently took home at least half a million dollars in profits from an art and antiques auction at Christie’s Inc.
The auction on Oct. 21, titled “Arts of France,” included at least six of Ms. Richardson’s pieces. The four that sold were an ornate Louis XIV mantel clock, a Louis XVI mahogany commode dated 1787, a pair of Louis XVI mahogany consoles and an 18th-century French painting. The pieces made Ms. Richardson a handy profit; the clock, the consoles and the commode went for more than $800,000 and were the auction’s top three sales.
While Ms. Richardson was indeed the owner of the items, it’s unclear if she bought them or if they were gifts to her. (She did not return The Transom’s calls.) Either way, she made a killing: For example, the pair of mahogany consoles were bought in 1988 at Sotheby’s Inc. for $352,200; when she sold them Oct. 21, they commanded $827,500. As the auction house’s cut is generally 10 to 15 percent for sales of more than $50,000, Ms. Richardson may have taken home about $350,000 on the consoles alone, minus sales tax and other incidentals.
If the sales of Ms. Richardson’s other items had gone as well-doubling their original prices-the socialite’s profits would have topped $1 million. Not bad for a day’s work.
A Miffed Marceau
Angering the ex-wife of a mime does not result in the silent treatment.
So party promoter, art curator and former gossip reporter Baird Jones recently discovered when a misunderstanding over two drawings he had borrowed from the former Mrs. Marcel Marceau resulted in a deluge of ire and phone calls from the lender.
According to Muriel Marceau, who split with Mr. Marceau in 1959, Mr. Jones had telephoned in June to express his interest in obtaining some of the mime’s drawings for an upcoming celebrity art show that he was putting together at the Stamford Museum in Connecticut.
The Wally Cox-like Mr. Jones apparently had already snagged artworks from Billy Dee Williams, the late Vincent Price and Grace Kelly, and other celebs, and, according to Ms. Marceau: “He asked me if I had any letters from Marcel with little drawings on [them].”
Ms. Marceau eventually picked out two and agreed to let Mr. Jones view the letters at her midtown apartment on June 15, a Sunday. Mr. Jones, upon seeing the petites choses , “was very enthusiastic,” said Ms. Marceau, and asked permission to include them in the exhibit. To solidify the agreement, he wrote up a contract containing the details of the loan: For a security deposit of $30, Mr. Jones would keep the drawings for up to two years, showing them at his discretion. Ms. Marceau told The Transom that although she was unhappy with the two-year specification, she pocketed the money and permitted Mr. Jones to take the letters with him.
Ms. Marceau then suffered from an immediate case of lender’s remorse. Realizing she had no desire to loan out her ex-husband’s works for the full two years, she contacted Mr. Jones the following day to get the drawings back. Mr. Jones replied that he had spent $200 on framing the very night he had picked up the letters and could not return them without reimbursement. (Ms. Marceau disputed that Mr. Jones could have framed them so quickly because, she said, he come to her apartment at approximately 8 P.M. Mr. Jones said it was more like 1 or 2 P.M.) In one of the conversations that followed, Ms. Marceau alleged Mr. Jones said: “‘I’m 43 years of age, and I still live with my mother because I can’t afford an apartment.’ I couldn’t believe it.” Mr. Jones denied saying any such thing and added, “I’m not 43.”
After a handful of phone conversations with the mime’s ex, Mr. Jones said he ceased even to listen to her messages. “A short statement by her would take two hours,” he told The Transom. He added that since his answering machine has no time limit, taped messages from Ms. Marceau lasted up to “45 minutes.” When Mr. Jones stopped returning her calls, Ms. Marceau retained a lawyer, Priscilla Carter, to retrieve her drawings. But then Ms. Marceau’s daughter, Garance Marceau-Clarke, got wind of the situation and, without consulting her mother, offered herself as a mediator.
For her part, Miss Marceau-Clarke was pragmatic about matters. “Just hearing the story … I know my mother, but I don’t know [Mr. Jones] from Adam … and she gave these things to someone who was more or less a stranger. I thought the circumstances were a bit peculiar,” she told The Transom.
Ms. Marceau once again has possession of her cherished petites choses , but she does not seem to have softened on Mr. Jones. She noted that when her attorney arrived at Mr. Jones’ apartment to pick up the drawings, the curator was still in his pajamas-clearly a faux pas . “Can you imagine?” she said.
“I was [just] waking up,” said Mr. Jones, who then added, for the record, “I had a bathrobe on.”