Entertainment Law

Another Perspective on Conan’s Contract

Conan in jesus pose.jpgLast week, we spoke with Conan O’Brien’s high-profile attorneys: Patricia Glaser of Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro and Leigh Brecheen of Beverly Hills entertainment boutique Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman and Goodman.

Brecheen is O’Brien’s contracts lawyer and Glaser is the attorney O’Brien brought in when NBC informed him that it wanted to change his Tonight Show to The Next Day Show.

When the Conan-NBC showdown was happening, the media were critical of the contract that Conan had, in large part because there was reportedly no timeslot language. Though subsequently, it’s been suggested by people who have seen the contract that this is untrue, and that timeslot language was in the contract.

The New York Post wrote:

The decision to let O’Brien walk apparently came down to who was cheaper to let go.

Leno has an ironclad, “brilliantly written” agreement that guarantees his production company a staggering $150 million if NBC Universal axes his flailing primetime show, an insider said.

That led us to praise Leno’s contract and its creator Ken Ziffren of Ziffren Brittenham, and to question the strength of O’Brien’s contract.

On Friday, Glaser and Brecheen called to set the record straight…

Glaser is perplexed by the negative portrayal of Conan’s contract in the media, saying it sent her into negotiations with NBC well-armed.

“Everything I needed was there,” said Glaser. “I had a powerful weapon had we needed to go to war.”

Glaser said Conan did very well in his separation from NBC — though the terms are confidential and could not be discussed — and that this was due in large part to the fact that the underlying agreement, drafted by Brecheen, “was extremely strong.”

Indeed, Conan appears to have gotten a sweet deal after his relationship with NBC soured. He walked away with millions; Reportedly, the separation agreement with NBC includes a payout of about $32.5 million for O’Brien and roughly $12 million for his staff. O’Brien can appear on another network beginning Sept. 1. Signs point to that network being Fox.

Glaser and Brecheen both say they were pleased with the outcome of their negotiation with NBC and its Gibson Dunn lawyers. Delaying O’Brien’s appearance on another network to September 1 was a “gimme,” for example. Conan couldn’t have put a show together before Sept. 1 anyway.

Glaser said there were no mistakes in the contract, while Brecheen said there’s nothing from this experience that would change how she would draft contracts moving forward. “From a litigation standpoint, [the contract] was all I needed to read,” said Glaser.

patty glaser.jpgWe were a bit surprised to get this call from two megawatt entertainment attorneys, but it sounds like it’s the usual Glaser approach, judging from a 2006 Daily Journal article cited by Deadline Hollywood:

Glaser is no stranger to the press: her cases involving Spider-Man and actress Kim Basinger proved irresistible to the news media, and, Abrams writes, “So, behind the scenes, she sometimes has taken on another role: acerbic press critic and media spin doctor. Reporters who cover her soon learn Glaser does not hesitate to pick up the telephone in her Century City office to complain about a story she dislikes or thinks contains errors.

We’re always happy to clear the air and correct the record here at Above the Law. That’s why God invented strikethrough.

Pellicano Probed? H’wood Attorney Patty Glaser Says “Absolutely Not” [Deadline Hollywood]

Earlier: What Does the Conan-Leno-NBC Debacle Mean for Entertainment Law?

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