By Scott Shaffer
Earlier this week, Don King issued a press release stating his intent to file a multi-billion dollar lawsuit. According to the Associated Press, the promoter has filed the suit and the target is cable network ESPN and its parent corporations. King has retained Florida attorney Willie Gary, who today a lawsuit seeking $2.5 BILLION from ESPN, ABC, Advocate Communications and Disney, claiming he was portrayed in a false light on an ESPN "SportsCentury" segment aired last May. King says ESPN portrayed him as "a con artist and a thug." Gary is no stranger to filing outrageous lawsuits, but he has been successful on several of them, including a nine-figure recovery from Disney over the sports complex it built in Florida. The flamboyant Gary flies around the country in private jets he has named "Wings of Justice" and "Wings of Justice II.
Legendary boxing promoter Don King filed a $2.5 billion lawsuit against corporate giants Disney, ESPN, ABC Cable Networks and Advocate Communications Inc. today for airing a highly defamatory and reckless broadcast against King on Sports Century that also portrays King in a false light.
King’s attorney, high-profile trial lawyer Willie Gary, who routinely takes on corporate giants to fight injustice on behalf of his clients said “this case is one of the worst examples of reckless broadcast journalism and blatant disregard for the truth.” Gary and his legal team are joined by nationally acclaimed, first amendment expert and trial lawyer, Bruce Rogow of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“Disney, ESPN, and other defendants had a duty to the public to make sure they checked their facts before airing such a defamatory piece against Don King. Sports Century not only falsely portrays Mr. King as a con artist, and a thug, but it published statements that are flat out untrue and could have been easily verified. In America, the press must be held accountable for the truth and accuracy of its publications and broadcasts. When the media publish or broadcast statements that show such reckless disregard for the truth, they must give an account for their actions,” Gary added.
The lawsuit also contends that Disney, ESPN, and other defendants broadcast statements that intentionally and recklessly portray Don King in a false light and create an inference and innuendo that King was dishonest and engaged in illegal activities including physically endangering others in order to succeed in his profession.
“I have a lot of respect for freedom of speech and freedom of the press in America. It’s a constitutional right. But the press does not have the right to slant and twist the truth to create a negative picture just because it sells. That’s not right,” said King.
Don King is one of the most internationally recognized boxing promoters in the world. In addition to having promoted some of the world’s most memorable championship fights, he has been instrumental in building the careers of boxing legends Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield, among others. King is also well known for his tremendous generosity and charitable contributions. He established the Don King Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes and organizations. As a longtime supporter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Wheelchair Charities, the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation, the FDNY and NYC Department of Homeless Services, among others. His charitable contributions have made him arguably one of the world’s leading philanthropists.
Gary, who is best known in the legal circles as the “Giant Killer” in the court room, has built his reputation on defending his clients who have been wronged by corporate America. Gary is perhaps best known as a trial lawyer for his half billion-dollar verdict against Canadian corporate giant, the Lowen Group in 1995. Gary is also no stranger to Disney in the courtroom. He won a $240 million verdict against Disney for Disney’s misappropriation of a concept from his client in 2000. Last year Gary also won a landmark case for millions of dollars against media giant Gannett for similar actions as those alleged in Mr. King’s lawsuit against Disney and ESPN.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SEVENTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR BROWARD
DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC., CASE NO. _______________________
and DON KING,
WALT DISNEY COMPANY, INC.,
ABC CABLE NETWORKS, ESPN, INC., and
ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC.,
(d/b/a ADVANCED CABLE COMMUNICATIONS),
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES AND DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Plaintiffs, DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC., and DON KING, individually, sue Defendants, WALT DISNEY COMPANY, INC., ABC CABLE NETWORKS, ESPN, INC., and ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC. (d/b/a ADVANCED CABLE COMMUNICATIONS), and allege:
1. This is an action for damages that exceed $15,000.00.
2. At all times material, Plaintiff DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC., was a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware, with its principal place of business located at 501 Fairway Drive in the City of Deerfield Beach, Florida.
3. Plaintiff DON KING is a resident of Palm Beach County, Florida. KING is the Chief Executive Officer of DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC.
4. Upon information and belief, WALT DISNEY COMPANY, INC., is a Delaware corporation, having its principal place of business at 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, California 91521. WALT DISNEY COMPANY, INC., owns and controls ABC CABLE NETWORKS, which is a California corporation, located and doing business at 3800 W. Alameda Avenue, Burbank, California 91505. ABC CABLE NETWORKS, upon information and belief, is a wholly owned subsidiary of WALT DISNEY COMPANY, INC.
5. ABC CABLE NETWORKS owns and controls ESPN, INC., a sports network, which is a Delaware corporation, located and doing business at 935 Middle Street, Bristol, Connecticut 06010. As such, ESPN, INC., is a wholly owned subsidiary of ABC CABLE NETWORKS.
6. ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Florida, with its principal place of business in Broward County, Florida.
7. ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., is a cable and satellite system that broadcasts ESPN through its cable television service to residents in Coral Springs, Florida.COUNT IDEFAMATION
8. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1–7 above.
9. The Defendants, on May 14, 1002, with malice and/or reckless disregard for the truth, published the following false and defamatory statements about DON KING and DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC., on the program Sports Century:
(a) That DON KING is a “snake oil salesman, a shameless huckster and worse. Not even the master of hype, P.T. Barnum, had more mischief up his sleeve than fight promoter DON KING . . . .”;
(b) That DON KING “went crazy and he threatened to kill . . . .” Jack Newfield following a press conference;
(c) That DON KING threatened to break the legs of Larry Holmes, one of King’s fighters;
(d) That DON KING paid Holmes $20,000.00 less than the monetary amount Holmes was entitled to receive;
(e) That DON KING cheated Meldrick Taylor, another fighter, by only paying Taylor $300,000.00 of the $1,300,000.00 Taylor was entitled to receive for a rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez pursuant to contract;
(f) That DON KING threatened to have Meldrick Taylor killed;
(g) That DON KING’s involvement with a charity boxing exhibition for Forrest City Hospital resulted in the hospital only receiving $1,500.00 out of the $85,000.00 received in ticket sales;
(h) That DON KING underpaid Muhammad Ali by $1,200,000.00;
(i) That DON KING lied in order to ensure Greg Page would sign a contractual agreement with King as his promoter by telling Page that prior to his father’s death he told King “I want to leave Greg in your hands, Don”;
(j) That DON KING convinced doctors at a hospital to invest in a movie about his life and that King left the hospital two weeks later “with a cashiers check for $250,000.00.” Although “[T]he movie never got made” . . . . [T]he doctors never got their money back.”
10. The published statements set forth above were false, defamatory, published maliciously and/or with reckless disregard for the truth. Their further broadcast by ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC.: Is actionable because ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., failed to exercise due care to prevent the false and defamatory publication of the statements set forth above. As a result, DON KING and DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC.’s business reputation has been injured and the Plaintiffs have lost contracts, financing opportunities, job opportunities, suffered delay in obtaining job opportunities and have been deprived of profits that would have otherwise been obtainable.
11. In December 2004, Plaintiffs served Defendants with written notices pursuant to Section 770.01 of the Florida Statutes, specifying the statements that were false and defamatory and demanding corrections and a retraction of the above described statements. Defendants have failed to publish corrections and a retraction as of the date of the filing of this Complaint.
12. As a direct and proximate result of the publication of the falsehoods
set forth above, the Plaintiffs, DON KING and DON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC., have suffered damages to their reputation and business interests. WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request judgment for damages and costs and for such other and further relief as may be just and proper.COUNT IIDON KING’S FALSE LIGHT INVASION OF PRIVACY
13. Plaintiff, DON KING, hereby incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 – 7 above.
14. The Defendants, on May 14, 2004, on Sports Century, published statements that intentionally and recklessly portrayed DON KING in a false light by stating that KING “killed not once but twice”; that he “hunted down” a man and “beat him to death over $600.00"; and that the “United States Attorney’s office in New York tried for years to nail King, spent millions of dollars investigating him. They couldn’t nail him. He is smarter than everybody else. He’s smarter than the prosecutors. He was smarter than Rudy Giuliani.”
15. The publication of the facts set forth in paragraph 14 was done with actual knowledge of the false light in which DON KING would be cast and with reckless disregard for the effect the publication would have. ADVOCATE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., failed to exercise due care to prevent the publication of the false light statements.
16. The Defendants, on May 14, 2004, on Sports Century, published statements that
intentionally and recklessly portrayed DON KING in a false light by creating an inference and innuendo that DON KING was dishonest and engaged in illegal activities including physically endangering others in order to succeed in his profession. These published statements include:
- Lou Dibella: “by his con.”
- Mike Marley: “this guy could sell surfboards in Iowa. . . .” “he’s one of the greatest hustlers in the history of the world.”
- Don Elbaum: “We put together four fighters to box ten rounds in an exhibition. We did $85,000 which was a tremendous amount of money for an exhibition. The hospital got $1,500 out of $85,000.
- Warren Flagg: “Don didn’t get convicted because Don didn’t personally do that stuff. He always instructed somebody else to do it.”
- Unidentified Male: “If the partnership gleaned hundreds of millions over the next decade, the split was less than even.”
- Unidentified Male: “Giachetti told me he was calling from a phone booth on the corner, and that he was afraid for his life. He truly believed Don King, through underworld connections, had put out a contract.”
- Clarence Rodgers: “one time a fighter challenged Don to a fight, and Don stood up and was prepared to do it. And then I think in the back of this fighter’s mind . . . hey, this man killed somebody, so maybe I better leave him alone.”
- Unidentified Male: “Don King killed not once, but twice. In 1954 it was ruled justifiable homicide when he shot a man who stole the receipts of one of his numbers houses. But 12 years later, when the 34 year old was involved in a second killing, he would face serious consequences.”
“King believed Sam Garrett owed him $600. King hunted Garrett down in a bar on Cedar Avenue in the middle of the day. He pulled Garrett out of the bar and beat him to death.”
As a direct and proximate result of the statements set forth in paragraphs 14 and 16 above, DON KING was cast in a false light and has suffered damage to his right to privacy and his reputation in the community. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff DON KING requests judgment for damages, costs and for such other and further relief as may be just and proper.REQUESTED RELIEF
(a) For judgment against the Defendants on Count I of Plaintiff’s DON KING and DON KING PRODUCTION, INC.’s Complaint for compensatory and all other damages recoverable by law;
(b) For judgment against the Defendants on Count II of Plaintiff DON KING’s Complaint for compensatory and all other damages recoverable by law;
(c) That all costs of this action be taxed against the Defendants;
(d) For pre-judgment interest; and
(e) Jury trial is demanded.