Lawyers argue over Simpson's worth

  Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Richard Price


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1997)


  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

  recover from.''


  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.''




  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.






  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


  Other assets


  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

  PHOTO,color,Gary Hershorn,Reuters