In a long-running legal battle between the stars and creators of the smash television hit ‘Bones’ and Fox Studios, regarding profit distribution an arbitrator has asked the studio to pay $179 million in damages.
The show ‘Bones’ ran on Fox between 2005 and 2017 and was once one of the most watched shows on television, though its ratings were never the same as House M.D. The lawsuit was filed by the showrunners of Bones which contended that the Studio had not evenly distributed the profits of the show starting from the show’s fifth and sixth season onwards.
In a 66-page long-ruling, the arbitrator Peter Lichtman has highlighted that Fox Studio executives lied, cheated and defrauded the showrunners and the cast of the show and asked them to settle for a sum close to $200 million.
This is the second largest financial ruling in the history of Hollywood where a studio has been asked to pay punitive damages more than $150 million to a show that it has not shared profits with. The previous case was when a D.C. Court asked Disney to pay $319 million in benefits to the creators of Who wants to be a Millionaire in 2011.
Fox, on the other hand, contends the decision of the arbitrator and has tapped Daniel Petrocelli, the negotiator of the Time-Warner Bros. deal, and plans to contend the veracity of the claims further.
In a statement released to the media immediately after the ruling, Fox said: “The ruling by this private arbitrator is categorically wrong on the merits and exceeded his arbitration powers,” reads a statement from 21st Century Fox. “Fox will not allow this flagrant injustice, riddled with errors and gratuitous character attacks, to stand and will vigorously challenge the ruling in a court of law.”
In his ruling, Lichtman claims that Fox executives including Peter Rice (Fox CEO), Fox TV CEO Dana Walden and Gary Newman “appear to have given false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts.” The further ruling states that Fox has taken a “cavalier attitude toward its wrongdoing” and exhibits a “company-wide culture and an accepted climate that enveloped an aversion for the truth.”
Lichtman pointed out that the damages he has asked Fox Studios to pay is only about 0.6% of their net worth and would hardly put a dent in their financial situation, but the problem is the timing of the ruling is off.
The problem with the timing of this ruling is that it comes amid the Disney and 20th Century Fox merger worth $71.3 billion.
“Peter Rice and Dana Walden are highly respected leaders in this industry, and we have complete confidence in their character and integrity,” Bob Iger, chairman, and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. said in a statement. “Disney had no involvement in the arbitration, and we understand the decision is being challenged and will leave it to the courts to decide the matter.”
The lawsuit was filed back in 2015 in a California State Court by those involved in getting Bones off the ground including showrunner Josephson, stars David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Bones was already on the air. There was a fear that the show would not be renewed, however, it was renewed for two more seasons and came to an end only in 2017.