Katzenberg vs Disney
Created 04/28/1999 - 00:00
In opening statements in the second phase of a $250 million breach-of-contract lawsuit, Jeffrey Katzenberg's lawyer Bert Fields presented a series of memos to bolster his argument that Disney concocted a contract argument over an incentive bonus to deprive Katzenberg of the money he was owed for making the Disney company a success while he was the chief of Disney's film entertainment division. During Katzenberg's first few years at Disney, operating income went from $2.3 million in 1984 to $186.3 million in 1988. He oversaw the development of 700 projects, including TV shows and movies like SISTER ACT, THE LION KING, ALADDIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE LITTLE MERMAID. Katzenberg joined Disney in 1984, under a success-based contract. In 1988, he signed a renegotiated contract, extending it to 1996. The new contract included an early-out option that would let him leave in 1994. Michael Eisner, the Disney chairman, claimed Katzenberg agreed to forfeit his incentive bonus if he left in 1994 or if Disney let him go. Katzenberg left in 1994 when Eisner reportedly refused to make him the company's No. 2 man after Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter accident. Katzenberg went on to become the "K" in DreamWorks SKG, with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. The attorney contends Katzenberg is entitled to 2% of the estimated income generated by the 700 products he developed at Disney, including music and merchandise spinoffs. He said the money was to be paid in a lump sum two years after he left the company. Disney general counsel Louis Meisinger said Disney agreed, during the first phase of the trial, to pay Katzenberg some money. At issue in this second phase is how much and what kinds of merchandise and product should be included in the tally.