DAMAGE CLAIMS LOWERED IN 'ROSIE' COURT CASE

G&J Seeks $29 Million+; Rosie O'Donnell, $26.8 Million in Latest Filing

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the latest procedural round in their nasty and not-quite-finished court clash, Gruner & Jahr USA and Rosie O'Donnell have lowered
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the amount of money each seeks from the other in separate lawsuits.

G&J now wants $27.2 million, plus interest and attorneys' fees, and about $2 million in costs related to the shutdown of Rosie magazine. Ms. O'Donnell now wants $26.8 million in damages. G&J originally sought $100 million and Ms. O'Donnell countersued for $125 million."

New filings
The final filings in the breach-of-contract case were submitted to New York State Supreme Court Judge Ira Gammerman yesterday.

Essentially, these filings -- which are called "findings of fact" -- summarize the key points of each side's case. But they also significantly reduce the amount of damages sought by both parties in the dispute, which stems from the dissolution of their joint magazine venture. Rosie was launched in 2001 off the bones of G&J's shuttered McCall's magazine. Rosie's last edition was published in December 2002.

How the final filings strike Judge Gammerman remains to be seen. His verdict is still pending, but at the close of the trial's eight-day courtroom drama on Nov. 13 he told both sides he felt neither "is going to recover anything other than nominal damages," since he said he found nothing that "would indicate to me I should find anybody would have made money" from the magazine.

'Profits' issue
In the latest filing, G&J's asserts that it "did not seek to recover damages based on lost profits." Instead, the filing says, it sought damages stemming from what it invested in the venture and "the value of the venture at the time of O'Donnell's breach."

Citing its investments of $12.2 million to keep the magazine running and the $15 million both parties agreed was the value of McCall's assets rolled into Rosie, G&J now seeks $27.2 million, plus interest and attorneys' fees, and also just less than $2 million in shutdown costs. "At the very least," the filing says, G&J is entitled to recoup those shutdown costs.

Elsewhere in the documents G&J claims another interpretation of its damages that could be around $33.5 million, but the company noted this is based on testimony on the market value of Rosie magazine that they conceded Judge Gammerman "had little patience for."

Ms. O'Donnell's filing
The filing from Ms. O'Donnell's side leaves the damages for two of its counterclaims -- related to its charges that G&J manipulated Rosie's financials, and that it violated the contract's non-disparagement clause -- for the judge to decide. Elsewhere Ms. O'Donnell claims she is eligible to receive $26.8 million in damages. This covers the $5.8 million in cash she contributed to the venture and the licensing of her name, which is valued at $21 million. Additionally, Ms. O'Donnell contends she is eligible to receive $52,000, which Ms. O'Donnell paid to her editorial liaison to G&J, Michele Riordan Read.

Given all that came out concerning Ms. O'Donnell's behavior at the trial -- in her own testimony as well as others' -- ironists may enjoy that her filing requests unspecified damages related to alleged G&J violations of the non-disparagement clause, "for the harm to [Ms. O'Donnell's] reputation caused by G&J's breach of contract."

Vulgar language
The colorful courtroom drama is only briefly alluded to in the filings. At one point, Ms. O'Donnell's filings note "losing one's temper" and "G&J's showing that O'Donnell became angry and used vulgar language on occasion does not amount to a proof of breach of contract."

G&J also disputes whether Ms. O'Donnell is eligible to win attorneys' fees should G&J be found in breach, according to the provisions of one of the failed deal's agreements. It said that before the case hit the courtroom, Ms. O'Donnell's legal fees were $6.5 million, but relied on her subsequent "statements to the media" to say her total legal bill ultimately topped $8 million.

It remains unclear when Judge Gammerman will reach his verdict.

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