David McDavid Wins Breach of Contract Suit

Turner Broadcasting ordered to pay $316 million.

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    TK
    KXAS
    An Atlanta jury awarded $316 million to Dallas businessman David McDavid.

    Turner Broadcasting System should pay $316 million to a Texas businessman who claims the media giant breached a contract that he was negotiating to buy the city's pro basketball and hockey teams, a jury ruled Tuesday.

    The verdict in favor of David McDavid does not affect the NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers, both of which are now owned by an eight-man group known as Atlanta Spirit.

    McDavid signed a letter of intent with Turner to purchase the two teams in April 2003. The proposed deal also included operating rights to Philips Arena, home of both the Hawks and Thrashers.

    McDavid's exclusive negotiating rights expired 45 days later, but the two sides continued to talk. Then, in September 2003, Turner announced it was selling the teams and the arena rights to the Spirit.

    The spurned bidder filed a $450 million lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court, accusing executives of sharing his confidential financial information with the group that now owns the teams.

    "We're just very glad to have our day in court," McDavid told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the courtroom immediately after the verdict. "It's been five long years. We're glad that a jury of 12 Georgians saw the validity of our claim. To us, it was never about the money, it was about the principle."

    Misty Skedgell, a Turner spokeswoman, said the company was considering an appeal.

    "We are disappointed with the decision of the court and the jury's interpretation of the facts in what was a complex business transaction," she said. "We will carefully consider all options, including appeal, and will announce any plans at the appropriate time."

    The jury said McDavid was due $281 million for breach of contract and $35 million for additional violations. However, panel also ruled that Turner did not share confidential information and did not commit fraud.

    McDavid was seeking the difference between the contract price and the value of the teams and the arena rights when Turner allegedly breached the contract. He also sought punitive damages, interest and an amount equal to McDavid's projection of the teams' value had the deal not collapsed, according to documents.

    McDavid's lawyers claimed the sale to the Spirit was an "inside job," meant to benefit a group that included the son and son-in-law of Ted Turner, founder of the Atlanta-based company. Now under the umbrella of Time Warner, Turner is a cable giant that includes CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies and truTV.