Hollywood onlookers awaiting a nasty courtroom drama were disappointed Nov. 10 when the Walt Disney Co. and its former studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a behind-closed-doors settlement to their long-standing feud. As even preschool visitors to Disneyland could tell you, Katzenberg, now one third of the DreamWorks troika, had sought at least $250 million from his ex-employer — profits, he claimed, owed him from the films and TV shows he initiated during his 10 years at the studio. Disney CEO Michael Eisner disagreed. Under the outlines of the confidential settlement, Disney will pay Katzenberg a guaranteed minimum (pegged as high as $100 million in one report), with the studio getting an undisclosed discount on its total payout.
By most accounts, Katzenberg came out a victor on the central issue: whether he was owed money. The real losers, though, may be those who have been salivating at the thought of a messy legal battle, replete with public disclosures of Disney secrets. After all, in recent weeks, both sides appeared to dig in their heels. Word leaked from the Katzenberg camp that two mock juries assembled by his lawyers had sided with the exec, and that the total amount due could top $500 million. And team Disney whispered that Katzenberg’s partners, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, had been forced to give depositions and could be dragged into court to testify about DreamWorks’ own spotty track record.
But in the end the two sides hammered out an agreement. Of course, not everything is bleak for feud fans: Determining the exact figures of the deal will most likely take several months and involve further legal wrangling. And so the show goes on….