A jury in Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in favor of Kirkland & Ellis LLP client, actor and producer Don Johnson, in a case related to his copyright ownership and related profits from the television series "Nash Bridges." The jury verdict requires Rysher Entertainment LLC ("Rysher") to pay Don Johnson Production ("DJP") $23.2 million in damages and recognize him as co-owner of Nash Bridges. Don Johnson will be entitled to half of the future profits. The show is currently playing in more than 45 countries around the world and is expected to bring in at least an additional $50 million. Rysher was owned from 2001 to 2006 by entities owned by billionaires Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner and is now owned by Canyon Qualia Funding Co., LLC believed to be a Canyon Partners entity.
"I have waited more than 10 years for Rysher to recognize me as the co-owner of the Nash Bridges series. It was my idea and I owned the rights in the first place. From the beginning, I have asked only that Rysher honor our contract, and I am so pleased that the jury agreed with me," said Mr. Johnson.
"We are grateful to the jury, who paid very close attention to the testimony. We are pleased that Don's ownership of half the copyright has been confirmed by the jury and that Don will finally receive his share of the profits," said Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner Mark C. Holscher, who represented Mr. Johnson at trial.
During its six-year run, the 122-episode Nash Bridges series became a top-rated live-action program on Friday nights from 1996-2001, generating more than $325 million in revenue, including over $150 million from worldwide syndication. As the owner of the idea and the series star, Don Johnson, through Don Johnson Productions, negotiated and obtained a 50 percent interest in the series' copyright.
The contract established in 1995 was a landmark copyright arrangement. Skip Brittenham, one of the most prominent entertainment lawyers in the country, testified that in his 30-plus years representing talent in the entertainment industry, Don Johnson was the only television actor whose contract he successfully negotiated to include copyright ownership of a television show.
Mr. Holscher has represented numerous Fortune 500 companies in complex civil litigation. A former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Mr. Holscher was recently named one of the Top 100 lawyers in California. Kirkland partners Jeffrey Sinek and Diana Torres were also key members of the trial team.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP is a 1,500-attorney law firm representing global clients in complex litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, corporate, intellectual property and technology, restructuring, real estate and tax. The Firm has offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C.