Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Latest From Yadda, Yadda, Yadda and McCormack --- and Pepaj's Response

Frivolous Lawsuit Dropped Against Bodog.com and Fox Sports Net (FSN)

For Immediate Release

August 09, 2006

A lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court against Bodog Entertainment Group and related parties by BlueMoon Entertainment of L.A. was dismissed on Monday. BlueMoon also dropped its lawsuit against Fox Sports Net (FSN). The lawsuit against both Bodog Entertainment Group (and related defendants) and Fox Sports Net was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that BlueMoon cannot later re-assert its claims.

'My client takes accusations of this type extremely seriously and will fight to whatever extent the law allows to ensure that frivolous claims brought against it are dismissed,' said Bodog Entertainment Group attorney James Nguyen, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP and co-chair of the firm's Entertainment & Media Industry Team. 'Bodog Entertainment Group wants to make clear that entities who decide to pursue litigation against it for capricious reasons or to try to get a quick nuisance value settlement payment will not be rewarded. My client believes the lawsuit by BlueMoon Entertainment was frivolous, and will vigorously defend itself from such baseless litigation. The case brought against Costa Rican-based Bodog and U.S.-based Fox Sports Net had no merit and it is telling that BlueMoon Entertainment abandoned the lawsuit.'

Filed in April 2006 in Los Angeles Superior Court, BlueMoon Entertainment's lawsuit alleged that Bodog Entertainment Group and its CEO Calvin Ayre were in breach of contract, breach of confidence and misappropriation of ideas in relation to Mr. Ayre's self-produced reality television series, which aired on Fox Sports Net (FSN). BlueMoon Entertainment claimed that it had proposed a similar show to Bodog Entertainment Group, though never had any written contract with Bodog Entertainment Group to produce any television program or to enter into any other business relationship together.

The Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker show was significantly different in numerous respects from the show proposal alleged by BlueMoon Entertainment. The only similarities were the involvement of Mr. Ayre and poker.

Immediately upon filing the suit in April, BlueMoon Entertainment sought a temporary restraining order to halt the broadcast of Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker on Fox Sports Net. But BlueMoon Entertainment lost that effort, when a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled against it at the TRO hearing. After that loss, BlueMoon Entertainment sought to extract a significant monetary payment from Bodog Entertainment Group, which was flatly rejected because Bodog Entertainment Group had no liability.

'This is just yet another case of a producer coming out of the woodworks to file a baseless lawsuit against a successful entertainment project because the producer somehow, somewhere met someone involved with the project,' Nguyen said. 'In reality, BlueMoon Entertainment raced to the courthouse to file this lawsuit before the Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker series was aired on Fox Sports Network, and therefore without even knowing what the show looked like. Before actually seeing the Bodog program, how could BlueMoon Entertainment reasonably believe that its supposed show proposal was strikingly similar to Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker? The answer is BlueMoon could not have, and my client believes that shows the lawsuit was baseless to begin with.'

On Monday, BlueMoon representatives appeared in court and voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice, thus agreeing not to pursue any more litigation against either Mr. Ayre, any member of the Bodog Entertainment Group or Fox Sports Net in relation to the television series.

The fact that BlueMoon dismissed the lawsuit so quickly, without even requiring Bodog Entertainment Group S.A. to file a response to the complaint, just confirms the weakness in the case. Equally telling, is that BlueMoon filed its lawsuit, lost hearings in the case, and then promptly gave up on pursuing the case.

'It is very rare for a plaintiff to just voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit with prejudice so early in the case. That is a testament to the weakness in BlueMoon's legal position,' Nguyen said.

Mr. Ayre and Bodog are not afraid to fight frivolous lawsuits, and will not settle frivolous claims just for efficiency's purposes. This lawsuit was baseless and appears to have been a cash-grab attempt.

The Bodog Entertainment Group continues to expand its digital entertainment division with a list of new television shows slated to kick off in the fall. The Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker television series, which showcased Mr. Ayre's billionaire philanthropist lifestyle, aired on Fox Sports Net (FSN) in spring of 2006.


* * * * * * * * *

Nothing like a release full of half-truths, and love that badly-written title, too. Babette Pepaj of Bluemoon had contacted me about this twice in recent days, the first to point me to the notification of the dropping of her suit itself, and the second, to advise me of the "smokescreen news release" (as she put it), reprinted above.

Smokescreen, no. Cobbled-together selection of half-truths and misdirections, yes. For nowhere in the above does the Bodog machine choose to address the one point that was cited as the reason for Bluemoon's dropping of the case, the ability (for better or for worse) of Bodog to dance outside the reach of U.S. legal judgments.

Bluemoon has also revised its press release on the dropping of the matter, which is available here. In addition to reworking the title of the release along the lines of the above --- "Update: Bodog Uses Offshore Status to Evade U.S. Lawsuit, According to Bluemoon Entertainment," followed by the deck, "Statements by Bodog Attorneys Obscure the Legal and Financial Hazards of Working With the Costa Rica-Based Online Casino" --- the release throws a few parting shots over Ayre's head. Here's the meat:

"Statements made by Bodog lawyer James Nguyen of Foley & Lardner in a news release dated August 9th refer to the case as 'frivolous' and 'baseless.' But a detailed breakdown of the similarities between the Bodog and Bluemoon programs proves otherwise (a breakdown is included in the lawsuit -- case #BC 350152). The fact is that during a series of in-person meetings that occurred May-August 2005 with senior Bodog representatives, Bluemoon provided Bodog with complete project disclosure, and submitted numerous proposal and development materials, including project overviews and synopsis, episodic outlines, distribution and marketing breakdowns, and production schedules with full budget analysis. Prior to providing these details, Bodog representative Susan Mainzer entered into a non-disclosure agreement on behalf of Bodog. It has been reported that prior to Bluemoon's development of the original poker-themed reality series, Bodog's only other foray into reality television involved a proposed but never produced series in which women would compete to bear Mr. Ayer's child in exchange for a $10 million prize.

'Bluemoon elected to dismiss this case because Bodog and Mr. Ayre have shielded themselves from U.S. civil as well as criminal law,' said Bluemoon spokesperson Grace Williams. 'Bodog's lawyers can spin the dismissal any way they choose in the press, but their PR efforts won't change the fact that Bodog deliberately maintains all of its assets outside the reach of U.S. civil court judgments. Even serving routine court papers, let alone trying to collect a judgment, was a challenge.'

It has been reported on several online poker news sites that Mr. Ayre, whose earlier legal problems involving insider stock trading in Canada are well documented, is reportedly avoiding entry into the U.S. due to concern over the Justice Department's crackdown on online gambling."


Ouch.

What to say, what to say. My research has led me to believe the Bluemoon version of the story more than the Bodog one, but the events of the last 48 hours are what I believed would happen all along. It was, for all intents and purposes, an unwinnable suit.

I'd like to thank Ms. Pepaj here for taking the time to keep me abreast of developments in the case in recent days. Unfortunately, when you lie down with dogs, you're likely to wake up with a good case of Calvin-faced fleas.

After all, quality of character can't be measured at the bottom line.

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