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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK


Business: The Company File

Disney trial snowballs

Disney facing Project Snowball claims

Lawyers for a former Walt Disney executive have unveiled new testimony in his multi-million dollar lawsuit against the company, claiming there was a secret plan - dubbed project snowball - to undermine his claim to a bonus.

The BBC's Tanya Peterson reports

Jeffrey Katzenberg, who founded the Dreamworks studio with Steven Spielberg claims Disney owes him more than $250m.

Mr Katzenberg ran Disney's film and television production for ten years until 1994.

He is suing the company over a bonus plan he says was designed to give him 2% of income from movies, TV shows and merchandise sold during his tenure.

But his lawyers say Project Snowball was a secret plan to undermine Mr Katzenberg's claim to his bonus and it was kept a secret from him in case the money ever became an issue.

Well now it has.

Disney denies the bonus was withheld due to the personal animosity of chairman, Michael Eisner, towards Mr Katzenberg.

It also says Project Snowball was named by an employee whose job it was to monitor bonuses - she said she knew the job would snowball on her.

This is the second phase of a two part trial.

In the first, settled in 1997, Disney did admit it owed Mr Katzenberg some money.

Despite this, the company also claims he forfeited his bonus when he left, although this second phase of the trial is set to determine exactly how much money is owed.

It is a complicated business.

It is now going to be left up to the judge to decide exactly what elements - such as income from music, toys and certain royalties and interest - should be included when calculating Mr Katzenberg's bonus.



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