Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roberts Prevails in Arbitration

Almost exactly one year after the parties concluded presenting their evidence before an arbitrator, news of the outcome of the Ampersand vs. Jerry Roberts lawsuit has finally surfaced.

Despite what the Santa Barbara News-Press would have its readers believe, the party who prevailed in the contract dispute was the former News-Press editor.

A story that ran in Tuesday's edition of the paper reported that the News-Press' parent company had filed a motion in Santa Barbara Superior Court to have the arbitrator removed from the case. That should have been the first clue that things had not gone as swimmingly for Ampersand and McCaw, the owner of the paper, as the article tried to imply.

In an email sent to me on Tuesday, Robert's attorney, Andrine Smith of the firm of Stimmel, Stimmel & Smith in San Francisco, confirmed that Ampersand had failed to establish entitlement to any damages from Roberts and the only issue left to be determined in the case is how much Ampersand will owe Roberts for his attorney fees.

In the arbitrator's written decision she noted that Ampersand and McCaw had used "scorched earth" tactics against the respected former editor.

Having scorched the earth to no avail McCaw now seems intent on trying to spin it, or at least this story, in order to save face. Smith characterized Tuesday's article as "shabby journalism" and noted that Ampersand had stopped paying the arbitrator's fees in an apparent effort to forestall the effectiveness of her decision after they unsuccessfully attempted to have her removed from the case.

My guess is that for this New Year's Eve the champagne will be popping at the Robert's household while Wendy and Arthur will be getting into the cheap vodka.

Update, 6 am Wednesday Dec. 31. It's been reported elsewhere, namely Blogabarbara, that Roberts has won $10 million from McCaw in this latest ruling. That's not correct. The confusion is perhaps attributable to a sentence that appeared in The Independent's story on the subject.

The arbitrator found that Ampersand and McCaw failed to establish any of their breach of contract or other claims against Roberts and that McCaw and Ampersand were entitled to nothing in the way of damages, let alone the $25 million that McCaw sued him for. Therefore, Roberts was determined to be the "prevailing party" in the arbitration. Also, Roberts was not awarded anything on his counterclaims against McCaw and Ampersand.

The arbitrator did rule that Ampersand must pay Robert's attorney fees in an amount yet to be determined. The amount of fees Roberts has incurred in this matter so far is believed to approach or exceed $1 million.