The family of Nicole Brown Simpson wants a piece of the rights to O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It” book that a proposed federal bankruptcy court settlement would award solely to the estate of Ron Goldman, who was slain along with Simpson’s ex-wife in 1994.
The Brown family says in court papers that it should get 40 percent of any proceeds from the book, with the Goldmans entitled to 60 percent. And Simpson’s lawyer contends the former football star and actor’s likeness, name and right of publicity shouldn’t be attached to the project.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristol said at a hearing Wednesday he would put off a decision on approval of the settlement with the Goldmans to allow more time to sort out all the issues.
“Aren’t we premature? We don’t know what other claims may be filed,” said Cristol, who set another hearing for July 30 and claim filing deadline for July 23.
In hopes of persuading Cristol to approve the deal, lawyers for the Goldmans offered to sweeten the settlement to allow the Browns a significant share of the settlement. Now, that offer will be subject to further negotiation.
“Every day we wait, this asset becomes less and less valuable,” said Goldman attorney Paul Battista. “This book is not like a bottle of fine red wine — it does not get better with age.”
Although Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend Goldman, he was found liable in civil court for their deaths. The Goldmans won an award now totaling more than $38 million and the Browns got $24.7 million, with no money collected by either family so far.
The “If I Did It” project, canceled last year by HarperCollins after much public criticism, was negotiated by a company headed by Simpson’s eldest daughter, Arnelle, called Lorraine Brooke Associates. The book was publicized as a fictionalized account of the brutal knife murders of Mrs. Simpson and Goldman, and Simpson has insisted it was written mostly by a ghostwriter.
Simpson himself did not appear in court on Wednesday.
With the Goldmans trying to seize control of the aborted book, Lorraine Brooke Associates filed for bankruptcy in Miami, and Cristol ruled earlier this year that the arrangement was essentially a fraud to allow Simpson to keep book profits. Simpson was paid about $630,000 even though the book was never published.
The court-appointed bankruptcy trustee reached a settlement last week that would award the Goldman family the rights to the “If I Did It” manuscript, as well as the copyright and movie rights. The Goldmans want to rename the book “Confessions of a Double Murderer” and shop it around.
The Browns said in court documents that any money received through the book should be divided between them and the Goldmans because of those earlier civil judgments. “Fred Goldman and the Browns are equal judgment creditors,” they claim.
But attorneys for the trustee and the Goldmans reject that claim, contending that the Browns only got involved at the last minute and had lost similar efforts in California state court earlier this year. The Browns should only recover money, they say, after the Goldmans’ claim has been fully settled.
“They’ve been sitting on the sidelines, and people who have been sitting on the sidelines shouldn’t cry when they can’t play,” said Goldman attorney David Cook.
Simpson attorney Yale Galanter, meanwhile, is arguing that despite the settlement Simpson still controls the rights to his likeness and name and how it is used for publicity purposes. But the Goldman lawyers say the “If I Did It” book would be a worthless asset without use of Simpson’s name.
“You can’t separate the two. How can you sell a book without using his name?” Cook said.
Under the settlement, the bankruptcy trustee would get 10 percent of the first $4 million in gross proceeds from “If I Did It” and a percentage of receipts after that.