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 businessweek.com. 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.