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Geraldo Rivera took contract dispute to court and won

Most anyone in California's entertainment business knows that the majority of music, television and movie entertainers have agents who help guide their careers. The conduct of an agent can inspire either loyalty or anger from an entertainer. Recently, Geraldo Rivera stood up for his relationship with his longtime agent when he refused to back down from a contract dispute with the agent's former employer.

William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WMEE) filed a lawsuit against Rivera last year, claiming that he owed them 10 percent of his gross salary from Fox News. Rivera's contract, however, provided that only his agent could negotiate on his behalf. Nothing in his written contract, even if it was still valid, said that WMEE was entitled to anything from Rivera.

At best, WMEE and Rivera had only a verbal agreement, which is not enforceable in court. A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice recently ruled that when Rivera's agent left WMEE in 2009, any contract Rivera had with WMEE became invalid. Therefore, when Rivera stopped paying WMEE in 2010, Rivera had no further obligation to pay WMEE. Rivera contends that WMEE thought he would simply pay them the 10 percent instead of fighting the suit.

When it comes to drafting contracts, California businesses may want to be careful how they are worded. If the continuation of a contract is contingent upon the performance of one specifically named person, instead of a type of employee -- such as an agent -- the company could find itself in the same situation as WMEE is with Rivera. If the contract between WMEE and Rivera had been worded differently, WMEE may have won this contract dispute.

Source: New York Daily News, "Geraldo Rivera doesn't owe his former talent agency money in contract dispute", Barbara Ross, March 27, 2014

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