Thursday, March 31, 2011

Film producer ordered to pay ex-boss $13M judgment

An Italian film mogul is entitled to more than $13 million in lost profits from a former executive of his film companies, who had a conflict of interest in producing movies to benefit himself while using his employer's resources, a judge says.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue handed down her final judgment in favor of Vittorio Cecchi Gori in his countersuit and against Gianni Nunnari.

The judge took the case under submission last July after presiding over a lengthy non-jury trial that began the month before. She issued a tentative ruling last Aug. 31, then heard arguments over the course of more than six months before reaching her final conclusions last Friday. She found Cecchi Gori was entitled to $13.7 million.

Nunnari's lawyer, Timothy J. Gorry, maintained that Cecchi Gori, a renowned European filmmaker, gave his client permission to work on outside projects so long as they did not interfere with his duties and loyalty to Cecchi Gori USA and Cecchi Gori Pictures, for which he was president and chief operating officer.

However, Cecchi Gori's lawyers said Nunnari abused the privilege and spent the majority of his time working on projects to benefit his own company, Hollywood Gang Productions.

Hogue agreed.

"(Nunnari) had a duty not to take personal advantage of any opportunity that arose in the course of that work and not to offer the opportunity to a third party, such as HGP," Hogue wrote in the 50-page

judgment. "He was prohibited from taking personal advantage in the form of direct benefits, such as pecuniary gain, as well as indirect benefits that enhance reputation, such as on-screen titles."

The judge found that Cecchi Gori suffered lost profits of $8.6 million from the film "300," $3.26 million from "Silence" and $1.35 million from "Everybody's Fine." She concluded in her tentative ruling that he was entitled to $700,000 from "Immortals," but changed her mind in her final decision.

She said Cecchi Gori is entitled to 7 percent interest on his damages.

Nunnari fired the first volley in the litigation in May 2008, alleging breach of contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

In addition to his severance pay and pension benefits claim, he also alleged Cecchi Gori persuaded director Martin Scorsese to block his participation in the production of "Silence," a film about a 17th century Jesuit priest that would have netted the plaintiff a $1.5 million producer's fee.

Scorsese subsequently put "Silence" on hold and began work on another film project, according to Nunnari's court papers.

Cecchi Gori filed his countersuit a month after Nunnari brought his case.

Cecchi Gori, 68, produced the Academy Award-winning movies "Il Postino," which took the Oscar for best original dramatic score; "Mediterraneo," winner for best foreign film; and "La Vita e Bella," which garnered three Oscars.

Nunnari produced Scorsese's "The Departed," which won four Oscars, including best picture. He also produced "300," "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Alexander" and "Shutter Island."

Alice Dodd Aaliyah Josie Maran Lori Heuring Anna Paquin

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