As we've told you before, former Walt Disney Studios chair Jeffrey Katzenberg (the K in DreamWorks SKG) is suing his old employers for $250 million in back bonuses he claims the Mouse House owes him for profits he helped generate during his 10-year tenure there.
Even though the trial doesn't begin until November 18, Katzenberg and Disney, particularly head Mouseketeer Michael Eisner, have been engaged in a legal brawl of the ugliest kind. Most observers believed the trial would have been settled by now, but the ill will on both sides has all but guaranteed a jury will hear the case.
On Friday, though, news surfaced that's bound to make Katzenberg's camp happy. According to Daily Variety, two mock juries commissioned last month by Katzenberg's lawyers ruled in his favor, their verdict apparently hinging on a mystery memo.
The memo, from late Disney president Frank Wells, assured Katzenberg of a 2 percent stake in the company's revenues even after Katzenberg left the company. Its existence had been rumored but never verified publicly because the court file is sealed to all but the litigants.
Wells reportedly wrote the memo shortly before his fatal helicopted crash in 1994. It was that incident that instigated the rift between Katzenberg and Eisner--and the mock trial is the first confirmation that the memo actually does exist.
Katzenberg--who contends he turned around the studio with such mega-successes as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pretty Woman--believed he was the rightful heir to the presidency. But when Eisner failed to promote him (in a controversial move, Eisner appointed his pal, CAA chief Mike Ovitz), Katzenberg walked. When he didn't get his check, he sued. The case was filed in April 1996.