Pay AOL Europe Ex-Staffers €200m, Judge Tells Bertelsmann

03 February 2004

A California judge ruled Friday on a long-running legal battle between German media giant Bertelsmann and two of its former executives, Jan Henric Buettner and Andreas von Blottnitz .

The duo, who filed their lawsuit in 2001, claim a share of the $6.75 billion (€5.42bn; £3.7bn) paid by America Online to Bertelsmann when it bought-out the latter's 50% holding in their AOL Europe joint venture.

In a hearing toward the end of last year, the jury awarded the pair substantial compensation, although there was subsequent ambivalence leading to a dispute between the two sides as to the actual amount. The jury decided that each plaintiff was entitled to 1.5% of the sale price, although Bertelsmann's lawyer, Tony Murray insisted there was no evidence to support that percentage.

The judge decided otherwise, awarding Buettner and von Blottnitz €200m between them, now grown to €234.4m with accrued interest. But he absolved former Bertelsmann ceo Thomas Middelhoff of personal liability in the case by dismissing the €32m award against him.

The attorney for the two executives declared his clients to be "quite happy" with the judgement as, doubtless, is his firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver Hedges. "It's obviously a life-changing sum of money for two young men," said the mouthpiece.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff