Disney CEO Bob Iger is standing by Peter Rice and Dana Walden after the future Disney TV executives were called out in the $179 million-profit participation judgment that Fox was hit with over profits from the 2005-17 series “Bones.”
“Peter Rice and Dana Walden are highly respected leaders in this industry, and we have complete confidence in their character and integrity,” Iger said in a statement after the $179 million judgment was disclosed on Wednesday. “Disney had no involvement in the arbitration, and we understand the decision is being challenged and will leave it to the courts to decide the matter.”
Earlier this month, an arbitrator hit 21st Century Fox with a $179 million judgment — one of the largest rulings of its kind in television history — in a long-running legal battle over profits from the series “Bones.”
In a 66-page summary of his ruling issued earlier this month by made public on Wednesday, arbitrator Peter Lichtman found that Fox had committed “breach of contract, fraud, and tortious interference with contract” in offering profit participation on the mystery procedural, which ran on the Fox broadcast network from 2005 and 2017 and was also produced by the company’s in-house TV studio.
Lichtman further called out 21st Century Fox president Peter Rice, current Fox TV CEO and soon-to-be ABC exec Dana Walden, and Fox TV chairman Gary Newman (who will be leaving the network soon himself), whom Lichtman said “appear to have given false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts.”
Rice and Walden are set to lead Disney-ABC’s TV networks and studio after Disney closes its acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV assets in the coming months.
In addition to a finding of actual damages, the arbitrator awarded $128 million in punitive damages, which he wrote “is reasonable and necessary to punish Fox for its reprehensible conduct and deter it from future wrongful conduct.”
Fox is seeking to have those punitive damages voided, arguing the arbitration agreement did not allow for the arbitrator to award punitive damages. Twenty-First Century Fox has hired top defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli and filed a motion today in Los Angeles to dispute that point of Lichtman’s ruling.
For more about the ruling against Fox, click here.