Disney and ‘Home Improvement’ Creators Settle Profit-Sharing Lawsuit

Lawsuit dated back to 2013

Walt Disney Co. settled a six-year-old lawsuit with the creators of the entertainment company’s wildly popular sitcom “Home Improvement” on Wednesday, weeks before they were set to go to trial.

Wind Dancer Production Group, along with “Home Improvement” creators Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra and David McFadzean — as well as Tam O’Shanter Productions — filed a lawsuit against Disney in 2013, accusing the network of selling syndication rights of “Home Improvement” below the series’s market value, and improperly accounting their share of the net profits, of which they said they were entitled to receive anywhere from 75% to 100%.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.

“Among other things, [Disney] have caused the series to be exploited in certain markets well below- market value, including selling the syndication rights in New York City (the largest television market in the United States) for no monetary consideration,” the creators and their lawyers wrote in the initial 2013 complaint. “[They’ve] failed and refused to consult with the plaintiffs in connection with the distribution of the series, including in syndication; and otherwise failed to properly account to and pay plaintiffs for their share of the profits from the series.”

In their initial lawsuit, the creators said “Home Improvement” was an “instantaneous and huge hit for ABC,” and that “in the eight seasons the series was broadcast on ABC it was among the top eight most popular shows on network television.”

“Home Improvement” was sold into syndication in 1993, its second year, and the creators said Disney agreed to pay them equal to 75% to 100% of net profits.

“Implicit in its agreements with the production companies was the obligation of the defendants, on which the artists and their production companies relied, to maximize the revenues from the distribution of the series,” the suit read.

The lawsuit, as well as a ’90s suit the “Home Improvement” creators lodged against Disney regarding how the show was licensed to affiliates, helped lay the groundwork for subsequent lawsuits by show creators and their talent against networks — for example, the legal disputes of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Fox’s “Bones.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.