SBJ/September 28 - October 4, 1998/No Topic Name

Jordan stars in courtroom drama

Michael Jordan finds himself this fall not on a basketball court but in a Chicago courtroom, as the Bulls superstar squares off in a legal battle against a movie producer who contends Jordan reneged on a film deal.

The trial, under way in Cook County Circuit Court, pits Jordan against Heaven Corp., producer of the 1991 movie "Heaven Is a Playground." Heaven Corp. alleges that Jordan backed out of a deal to appear in the film, costing the company millions of dollars. Jordan and his attorneys countered with a lawsuit claiming fraud against Heaven Corp.

The movie bombed at the box office, grossing about $3 million, according to Heaven Corp. attorneys. They say that if Jordan had appeared in the film, the movie could have grossed $32 million, half of which would have gone to Heaven Corp.

"There was a promise made, and then there was a great stall engineered by David Falk [Jordan's agent]," said Dean Dickie, a lawyer with D'Ancona & Pflaum, the law firm that represents Heaven Corp. "It's simple. [Jordan] signed a contract, and then he caused damage."

Falk is not a defendant in the suit, which was filed in 1993 but is just now coming to trial.

According to Heaven Corp.'s complaint, the movie was originally scheduled to be filmed with Jordan in 1987 and then was postponed to the summer of 1988 and again until 1989. Heaven Corp. alleges that Jordan then refused to participate in the movie, and in 1989 production was halted.

The movie, starring D.B. Sweeney and Michael Warren, was eventually made with Bo Kimble playing the part originally intended for Jordan. It was released in Chicago in October 1991 but was never distributed nationally.

"As a consequence of Jordan's refusal to participate, Heaven lost financing it had arranged. ...As a result, Heaven suffered severe financial harm," the complaint read.

According to Heaven Corp.'s complaint, "Had Jordan not breached its contract and appeared in the movie, it would have made a substantial profit."

Jordan is expected to testify during the trial, which may continue through mid-October.

Jordan's attorney, Frederick Sperling, a partner with the law firm of Schiff Hardin & Waite, was not available for comment, but the firm released a statement saying that Jordan has filed a counterclaim against Heaven Corp. for making false statements that precluded Jordan from participating in any other movie until August 1990.

"Michael Jordan never refused to act in Heaven Corp.'s movie the summer of 1989," the statement read. "In fact, Mr. Jordan and Heaven Corp. mutually agreed to postpone the filming of the movie until the summer of 1990. Heaven Corp.'s movie was a failure for reasons having nothing to do with Mr. Jordan."

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