The $179 million decision in the dispute between Fox and “Bones” stars and producers included a notable observation about former Fox executive Peter Liguori — he received a sweetheart deal from Fox months before he testified on the company’s behalf.
Liguori, who was president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company until his exit in 2009, quietly re-entered the company’s orbit in 2018 with a lucrative producing deal at FX, according to the ruling from arbitrator Peter Lichtman.
“[I]t seems coincidental that Mr. Liguori disappears for 9 years (from Fox’s radar) and then magically reappears with a First Look Agreement 7 months before he is to testify in these proceedings with a deal in hand that most producers in Hollywood have strived to have their entire entertainment career,” Lichtman wrote.
According to the 68-page decision, Liguori’s deal came with “fixed episodic fees and contingent compensation far exceeding that of top executive producers in Hollywood,” despite the fact that the executive had “virtually no experience whatsoever as a producer.”
Liguori, who followed up his role at Fox with stints at Discovery and Tribune, has one producing credit on his IMDB page, for the 1996 film “Big Night.”
Liguori and a representative for FX did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Wednesday’s arbitration ruling found that the Fox network and studio, as well as its affiliate Hulu, conspired to keep licensing fees for “Bones” well below market rate in order to avoid paying the show’s profit participants — including stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel and producers Barry Josephson and Kathy Reichs — their fair due.
As part of their case, Josephson and Reichs said that Fox fraudulently coerced them into signing a release waiving their right to challenge the artificially low licensing fees — and their reduced profits — by falsely threatening the show’s future.
The producers said executives at the network lied and told them the show would be canceled unless all profit participants agreed to waive their right to dispute the fees. However, as Liguori’s successor, Peter Rice, testified, Fox never seriously weighed the possibility of canceling the show.
According to the ruling, the actions of the network were part of a plot to avoid future lawsuits over profits, originally outlined in a “legal action plan” memo from Liguori to other Fox executives shortly before his departure from the company.
“When viewed in totality, the evidence surrounding the Release … supports a finding of fraud with the intent to get Participants to sign off on their points and at the same time preclude litigation,” Lichtman wrote. “‘Bones’ was not going to be cancelled, and the Release was procured through a series of misrepresentation and fraudulent conduct that, in reality, had the Participants known the true facts, they would not have signed.”
As such, Lichtman ruled that the release should be nullified, allowing their challenge to proceed. He ultimately came down on the side of the show’s producers and stars overall and ordered Fox to pay a total of $179 million in damages.
Fox said Wednesday it would seek to appeal the ruling, arguing that the arbitration agreement did not allow for the arbitrator to award punitive damages. 21st Century Fox has hired top defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli and filed a motion today in Los Angeles.
“The ruling by this private arbitrator is categorically wrong on the merits and exceeded his arbitration powers,” a spokesperson for 21st Century Fox said in a statement. “Fox will not allow this flagrant injustice, riddled with errors and gratuitous character attacks, to stand and will vigorously challenge the ruling in a court of law.”