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Disney Loses Appeal of $320 Million Game Show Verdict

Walt Disney Co. and its ABC television subsidiary were denied a new trial in federal court in a case stemming from licensing rights to the game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” A panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit Appellate Court ruled on Dec. 3 that there were no errors made by a federal jury in awarding $269 million in damages to Celador International Ltd. Celador, a British company, sued ABC, Buena Vista Television and Valleycrest Productions – all units of Disney– in 2004 over not receiving its proper share of profits in the successful run of “Millionaire.” Celador created the show and licensed North American rights to ABC and Buena Vista Television. “Millionaire” aired for three years in primetime on ABC starting in 1999 and another 10 years in syndication. In July 2010, a federal jury hearing the case in Riverside awarded Celador $269 million after finding the Disney companies breached a contract to share profits with the British company. The court later awarded an additional $50 million in interest bringing the total award to $320 million. “I am pleased that justice has been done,” said Celador Chairman Paul Smith in a prepared statement. In a six-page ruling, the appellate justices found no mistakes during the trial that warranted a new trial and that the award was not excessive or based on speculation or guesswork.

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