Disney Ordered to Pay $270M in "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Suit

Jury says company's accounting practices hid profits from show's creator

By Greg Wilson
|  Friday, Jul 9, 2010  |  Updated 7:00 AM CDT
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376013 02: Abc1 (8/20/99)--Who Wants To Be A Millionaire- Tonight's Big Winner From "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," Doug Van Gundy, From Marlinton, West Virginia. Pictured L-R: Doug Van Gundy, Regis Philbin. (Photo By Getty Images)

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A British company that created a once-popular game show wanted to be a millionaire 270 times over, and a federal jury in California made it happen.

Disney was ordered to pay Celador International, which created the ABC show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," $270 million in what industry watchers say could be a severe blow to how Hollywood studios report profits. Celador sued Disney in 2004, claiming the giant company's pattern of "sweetheart deals," in which it controlled production and distribution of the show, made it appear the program lost money even though it sat atop the ratings, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Celador sought $395 million, which included merchandising revenue.

"It's stunning how studio accounting works — or in this case, didn't work. And it took a jury to make it right," Celador's attorney, Roman Silberfeld, told the Times. "I think the next time that a studio wants to use some creative accounting mechanism, they're going to think twice."

Disney said it plans to challenge the award.

"We believe this verdict is fundamentally wrong and will aggressively seek to have it reversed," Disney said in a statement.

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