SBJ/September 1 - 7, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Raiders insist judgment be paid

The Oakland Raiders intend to collect on a $34.2 million judgment against the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, even if it means going after rent payments made by the Golden State Warriors, an attorney for the Raiders said last week.

Davis
Just hours after a Sacramento jury said the Coliseum was liable for negligent misrepresentation that led the Raiders to move to Oakland, a new legal battle was beginning. Lawyers and officials for the Coliseum publicly declared that the team will never collect the money, while the Raiders' lawyers were already planning motions to execute the judgment.

"Unless they pay the judgment or put up a bond for the judgment, the Raiders will seek to execute on the judgment," said Kenneth Hausman, an attorney for the Raiders. "To collect the judgment, the Raiders could take the assets of the OACC, including rent or other payments made by the tenants, such as the Warriors, to the OACC."

But according to Ignacio De La Fuente, an Oakland city councilman and chairman of the city-Alameda County joint powers authority that now oversees the Coliseum, the OACC has no assets.

"The old Coliseum board, that entity is defunct," De La Fuente said. "In our opinion, they have no way to collect."

Hausman said the OACC is not defunct, and the Raiders provided SportsBusiness Journal with an Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum agenda for a closed session meeting that was issued the day after the verdict.

"The Coliseum is the lessor for the Warriors and the Raiders," Hausman said. "It is an existing private corporation with assets, contracts and an indemnity from the joint powers authority of the city and the county."

That means the city of Oakland and Alameda County are on the hook for the judgment if it is upheld, he said. Additionally, if the Coliseum appeals the verdict, which it has indicated it will do, it must put up a bond of 1½ times the amount of the judgment, he said.

"After spending $10 million defending the Coliseum, the city and county are whistling past the graveyard in suggesting that it has no assets and the Raiders will not be able to collect," Hausman said. "These are the same public officials who told the taxpayers the stadium was sold out, so the Raiders' return would not be a cost to the taxpayers. The public officials and their attorneys have displayed the kind of arrogance one can only have with taxpayers' money."

George Harris, attorney for the Oakland Coliseum, said, "I am not in a position to comment on the indemnity, if any." Harris would not say the OACC was defunct, but he said it had "very little assets."

Harris took a position opposite Hausman's on whether the Coliseum would have to put up a bond in order to appeal the judgment.

"Normally to stay a judgment, an appeal bond is required, but there are circumstances under which a bond is not required," Harris said. "Public entities are not required to post bonds under California law."

However, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Joe Gray ruled in February 2002 that the OACC was a private entity for the purposes of the litigation with the Raiders.

Harris said he was not sure that court ruling applied to the bond issue, but wouldn't comment further on it.

Harris, noting that the Raiders asked the jury for an $833 million judgment, said the verdict "absolutely" was a victory for the Coliseum.

"What the Raiders were seeking was a judgment that could be leveraged to get out of their lease and go to Los Angeles or elsewhere," he said. The $34.2 million verdict was not large enough to allow the team to do that, he said. The Raiders' lease expires in 2010.

An owner of a major sports franchise, though, said $34.2 million was an amount that Raiders owner Al Davis could possibly use in negotiations to get out of a lease early. "He's got a marker now," said the owner, who asked not to be identified.

One thing the Raiders and Coliseum officials agree on is that the battle is continuing. "This has been going on for eight years," Harris said. "It won't stop now."

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