What was shaping up to be a juicy court battle with wide-ranging Hollywood implications was dismissed Friday, after comedian Gary Shandling settled his $100 million suit against his former manager of 18 years, Brad Grey.
Terms of the pact weren't revealed--they probably never will be.
The trial, which was to begin Friday, ended when California Superior Court Judge Ralph Dau granted requests from both sides' attorneys to have it dismissed.
"Both Mr. Shandling and I are very pleased with the settlement," the comedian's attorney, David Boies, said. "We're very pleased we could achieve it without the necessity of a trial."
Shandling and Grey had forces pushing them to settle the year-old dispute.
Grey, a partner in the powerful Brillstein-Grey Enterprises production company, had lost several key pretrial rulings recently, with Judge Dau letting a number of Shandling's claims stand. Among them: the comedian's assertion that he's entitled to a share of the money Brillstein-Grey got from a 1994 ABC development deal; and Shandling's claim that he should get a portion of the $79 million the firm got when MCA bought into it in 1995.
As for Shandling, Daily Variety reports that Columbia Pictures pressured him to settle. The comedian stars in the studio's upcoming $56 million film What Planet Are You From, the trade says, and Columbia didn't want a repeat of the embarrassing legal fiasco between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Disney hampering a major release.
The litigants might have also been influenced by the workloads of their lead attorneys. Shandling recently tried to get the trial postponed because Boies was tied up heading the government's antitrust trial against Microsoft. Grey's attorney, Bert Fields, one of the biggest entertainment lawyers there is, also has his fair share to do, including representing Katzenberg in his arbitration against the Mouse House.
From the beginning, the suit has been a hot topic in Hollywood. As Katzenberg v. Disney exposed the convoluted logic that goes on in studio finance departments, Shandling v. Grey promised to set a legal precedent for the new role of talent managers in Hollywood.
Increasingly, managers--whose traditional jobs have been to plot long-term career strategy for their stars--are expanding their duties, serving as agents and producers. Under California law, managers aren't subject to the same restrictions as agents. Thus, they can get away with stuff like charging greater commissions.
Had Shandling v. Grey actually gone to trial, that might have changed.
Grey managed Shandling's career for 18 years, acting as executive producer for the comedian's two television shows: It's Garry Shandling's Show; and the successful, Emmy-winning The Larry Sanders Show.
The relationship between the two melted down in late '97, when Shandling left the Sanders Show. He filed the suit a few months later--confounding many in Hollywood--accusing Grey of "triple dipping" into the show's revenues.
According to Shandling, Grey unfairly gained fees and commissions not only as his manager, but as the show's producer. And, as Grey's "cornerstone client" for many years, Shandling contends, the manager leveraged him to gain lucrative production contracts, such as one to produce NBC's Just Shoot Me.
Subsequently, Grey countersued Shandling for $10 million, claiming the comedian did stuff to sabotage production of the Sanders Show.