Lawyers argue over Simpson's worth
Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Richard Price
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The two sides in the O.J. Simpson case fought over
money Thursday, and the major battle focused on how much Simpson's fame will
be worth after this trial.
Simpson did not show up for Thursday's session, but his lawyer, Robert Baker,
told jurors his client was broke. Even before the civil jury hit Simpson with $8.5
million in compensatory damages after finding him liable for the attacks on
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, Baker said, Simpson had a
negative net worth of $856,157.
``He owes lawyers. He owes mortgage payments. . . . He is in effect without
assets,'' Baker said in a subdued tone. ``He has no equity in his home . . . no
savings . . . a pension plan he cannot access. . . . He has a net worth he can never
The jury must determine how much in punitive damages to award the estates of
the victims. In California, juries are advised to punish financially without
destroying. Discussion of finances are meant to give jurors a guideline.
Except for the bottom line, the plaintiffs contested few of the figures submitted
by Simpson. But they argued that his fame is a marketable commodity that
propels his after-tax net worth to $15.7 million.
Mark Roesler, an expert in marketing celebrities, said Simpson could make up to
$3 million a year. He said a pair of Simpson's old tennis shoes recently sold for
$805. ``There are people out there who are willing to pay a premium for
something that was owned by him.''
He noted that since the slayings Simpson has applied for six trademarks to sell
more than 500 kinds of merchandise, including toys and sports equipment.
Among the trademarks: ``Team O.J. -- Justice for All.''
Simpson has made more than $2.8 million in publicity-related income since the
murders, almost $1.3 million of it from a book and a video; $434,000 came from
tabloid pictures appearing in Star magazine.
Roesler squirmed when Baker asked him whether he would want to market
Simpson. Roesler also admitted he once told a reporter that ``Simpson's viability
as an endorser will be diminished to virtually zero.''
The two sides squabbled over some details. The plaintiffs contend Simpson is
hiding $3 million: a $1.25 million interest in a Honey Baked Ham chain and a
$1.75 million insurance check to cover his civil case. The plaintiffs did not
include these amounts in their calculation of Simpson's net worth.
But Baker contends the money was eaten up in taxes and bills. Plaintiff's
accountant Neill Freeman said, ``I don't understand where the cash went.''
Lawyers for the two estates pointed out that money is the only way to make
Simpson pay for the killings since he was acquitted in a criminal trial. John
Kelly, lawyer for Nicole Brown Simpson's estate, to which Simpson's two
children are heirs, urged jurors to ``not let Mr. Simpson hide behind his children.
It will be the only protection these children have for the rest of their lives.''
TEXT OF INFO BOX BEGINS HERE:
O.J. Simpson's finances
Financial statements submitted by O.J. Simpson's lawyers Thursday show a quite
different net worth than estimates by plaintiffs' lawyers.
ASSETS/LIABILITIES CLAIM CLAIM
Bank checking account 6,137 6,137
Legal defense fund 471 471
Bank account 240 240
Owed by Orenthal Productions 1 265,727
Total current assets $6,849 $272,575
Orenthal Productions 1 1
Pigskins Inc. 242,500 242,500
May Medical Building 42,000 42,000
Total properties $284,501 $284,501
Pension fund 911,731 911,731
Pension fund 3,209,748 3,209,748
Person furnishings, art 500,000 500,000
Rockingham home 3,700,000 3,700,000
Mother's condominium 1 250,000
Electric bicycle 4,350 4,350
Suburban auto 64,069 64,069
NFL pension present value 0 175,592
Value of name, likeness, trademarks 0 24,880,568
Total other assets $8,389,899 $33,696,058
Total current assets,
properties, other assets $8,681,249 $34,253,134
Children's legal fees in custody case 4,525 4,525
Children's legal fees in custody case 15,000 15,000
Rockingham mortgage 2,300,000 2,300,000
Mortgage, mother's condominium 1,959 1,959
Legal fees, custody case 188,968 188,968
IRS, 1993 taxes 7,811 7,811
Legal, other expenses, criminal
and civil cases 1,303,950 1,303,950
Legal, other expenses, criminal
and civil cases 1,593,685 1,593,685
Total liabilities $5,415,898 $5,415,898
Assets in excess of liabilities 3,265,351 28,837,236
Estimated income taxes 4,121,503 13,133,707
Assets in excess of liabilities,
after taxes -$856,157 $15,703,529