‘Millionaire’ Suit’s Final Answer

A federal jury in Riverside, Calif., awarded U.K.-based Celador International $269.2 million in damages from the Walt Disney Co. July 7 in a trial over profits from ABC’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”

While the suit was a battle between producers and studio, the practice of “Hollywood accounting” was also on trial – and, so it seemed, was William Morris Agency, which represented both sides during negotiations.

Former WMA exec Ben Silverman and current ICM VP Greg Lipstone were both called to the stand over negotiations between Celador and Disney subsidiary Buena Vista Television.

Lipston was “in the firing line of lawyers from both sides,” according to showbiz blog The Wrap, and acknowledged that WMA bosses felt the agency’s commission from the package deal wasn’t high enough so he made sure the negotiations would benefit the company.

WMA made more than $5.8 million in commissions from “Millionaire,” according to The Wrap, and a meeting with ABC pushed license fees from $187,500 for half-hour episodes to $200,000, and $210,000 for hour episodes to $400,000.