Attorney: Frank Gehry Broke His Promise

The architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and  other landmarks broke his promise to a friend of 40 years to share in net  proceeds from a jewelry collection bearing his name, an attorney told a jury Wednesday.

However, a lawyer for the renowned building designer, Frank O. Gehry,  countered that plaintiff Fred Nicholas and his company, Circa Publishing  Enterprises of Culver City, terminated the agreement themselves six months  after it was made and thus have no case.

"Circa is not entitled to a penny," attorney Patricia L. Glaser said.

The attorneys gave the accounts during opening statements of Circa  Publishing's lawsuit against Gehry's company, Gehry Design LLC. The breach-of- contract lawsuit was filed in May 2007 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

According to Grossman, Circa Publishing entered into a written 2004  agreement with Gehry in which the plaintiffs would have the exclusive rights to  produce, distribute and sell jewelry designed by the architect.

Circa was entitled to half the proceeds of items sold under the deal,  according to Grossman.

Circa officials later introduced Gehry to Tiffany & Co. representatives,  and that meeting led to a preliminary understanding between Circa and Tiffany  for Circa to distribute and sell items with the Gehry trademark that would be  referred to as the Frank Gehry Collection, according to Grossman.

However, Gehry and Gehry Design later entered into a direct contract  with Tiffany that excluded the services of Circa, Grossman said.

But Glaser told jurors that Circa made clear in a March 2004 e-mail that  the contract was being returned to Gehry. As a lawyer, Nicholas knew that  such an action meant a deal was over, Glaser said.

Yet in September 2006, Circa began asking for its share of the Gehry  Design-Tiffany deal, Glaser said.

The Frank Gehry Collection was three years in the making and involved  working with nine Tiffany designers, according to The  collection was unveiled in Beverly Hills on March 26, 2006, and the pieces  ranged from $125 silver rings to a $1 million diamond brooch shaped like the  floor plan of the Guggenheim Museum.

Grossman said the project made millions of dollars.

Gehry, the trial's first witness, testified he did not remember much  about the back-and-forth negotiations leading up to the Tiffany deal, in  particular the years the various events happened.

"I'm 80 years old, so I have lapses sometimes," said Gehry, often  speaking so softly his own lawyer had to ask the judge to order him to raise  his voice.

Gehry said designing jewelry was new for him.

"It took a while because it was a new undertaking for me," Gehry said. "What's fascinating is the craftsmanship in the items that is not available  in buildings. I had to re-orient my thinking."

Gehry said he was happy with his decision to try his hand at jewelry  design.

"I quite enjoyed it," Gehry said.

Gehry is also known for designing the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao,  Spain, and the Dancing House in Prague. His proposal for a new home for the New  Jersey Nets in Brooklyn was rejected in June by the club owner as too pricey. 

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