O.J.'s finances may be next twist

  Richard Price; Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Gale Holland


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1997)


  SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- In two separate trials, much has been made of O.J.

  Simpson's fame. But jurors in his civil trial may be asked to consider his fortune

  as well.


  If the jurors decide he committed the murders, they will face a new question:

  How much money should it cost him? And that would set off a major

  confrontation on the issue of Simpson's finances.


  Fixing the amount of monetary damages and determining how it should be paid

  are usually the most complicated and divisive issues in civil suits.


  The issues can generate years of courtroom fighting and a tug of war over every

  dollar. Winning a suit is one thing; collecting the money often requires an army

  of accountants, court orders and infinite persistence.


  Simpson gave the court a financial statement this week. It's believed it said his

  net worth has plummeted to less than zero. It was estimated at $10.8 million

  when he and his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, divorced on Dec. 31, 1991.


  If they win, the families of Nicole and Ronald Goldman are expected to ask for

  judgments totaling more than $12 million. That would be more money than ever

  has been imposed on an individual defendant in a publicized verdict.


  ``Definitely an eight-figure amount,'' says Robert Hirschhorn, a Texas lawyer and

  jury consultant who has followed the case since the murders occurred June 12,



  The plaintiffs are Goldman's father and mother -- Fred Goldman and Sharon

  Rufo -- and Nicole's estate, presided over by her father, Louis Brown. Fred

  Goldman and Rufo both have filed wrongful-death actions for the loss of their

  son. There are also two so-called ``survival'' actions filed on behalf of both



  A survival action is a legal device that essentially allows a dead person to sue for

  the damages he would have been entitled to if he had survived.


  Sorting out the money


  None of the plaintiffs believe Simpson is as broke as he is expected to claim. In a

  hearing scheduled today, the two sides will argue over whether Simpson has

  given the court adequate financial information.


  The plaintiffs claim the defense has failed to provide nine categories of financial

  documents that the judge ordered Simpson to provide. Among them: quarterly

  net-worth statements, the most recent appraisal for his Rockingham estate, bank

  statements, and full pension fund information. The plaintiffs say Simpson listed

  his pension fund balances at $1. The defense argues the balances are not subject

  to accounting in the civil case. Published reports have put their value at $2.5



  The funds begin paying annuities in five years, when Simpson turns 55. At about

  the same time, he'll start drawing a total of $2,000 in monthly pensions from the

  Screen Actors Guild and the National Football League.


  Even if Simpson were to prove that he's broke now, the plaintiffs would argue

  for a big judgment, saying fame will earn him money in the future.


  His normal TV, film and advertising incomes cut off, Simpson has been making

  money off his notoriety. Although neither Simpson nor his business manager,

  Leroy Taft, will discuss details, it's estimated that he netted $1 million from the

  sale of his book, I Want To Tell You, and another $250,000 for autographing the



  His income from the sale of family pictures taken in the weeks and months after

  his criminal trial to tabloids has been calculated at $500,000 in reports citing

  anonymous sources. He reported $250,000 income from the sale of a video on

  his side of the case.


  Enormous bills


  But his $950,000-a-year income from NBC and Hertz is gone. And his legal bills

  have been enormous. His criminal case cost at least $3 million, possibly as much

  as $6 million.


  His defense in the civil case, estimated at close to $1 million, reportedly was

  paid for by an insurance policy on his company, Orenthal Productions. Although

  the policy didn't cover criminal charges, he qualified once he was acquitted. But

  he paid an unknown out-of-pocket amount for his successful battle with Nicole's

  parents for custody of his children, Sydney, 11, and Justin, 8.


  Simpson joked on the witness stand that he used to be a wealthy man but that

  now he has ``a lot of wealthy lawyers.''


  Not that he lives poorly. The cost of running his Rockingham estate includes a

  maid, a gardener, personal assistants and a full-time security guard.


  To cover his lifestyle and pay his lawyers, he went through $500,000 in cash and

  stocks, then sold a number of assets. He sold a 50% interest in a string of

  HoneyBaked Ham franchises. He sold three Orange County condominiums for

  $700,000 that he owned outright and some property in Mexico for an unknown

  amount. He sold his New York apartment for a $1.1 million profit.


  Growing debt


  He borrowed an unspecified amount against his childrens' estate and

  re-mortgaged his Rockingham home for a $3 million line of credit (his original

  mortgage was almost paid before the murders). That left him about $200,000 a

  year in interest payments. Sliding real estate values in southern California have

  dropped the value from $5 million in 1994 to an estimated $4 million today.


  Even if Simpson does get hit with a judgment, the plaintiffs can't seize any

  property with a lien on it. The lien-holder has a previous claim. That makes the

  Rockingham home untouchable, which means the only property that could be

  seized by the plaintiff is the $250,000 San Francisco condominium where

  Simpson's mother lives. Having her evicted could subject the plaintiffs to public



  If Simpson loses this case and appeals, he'll continue piling up legal debts.

  Losing parties who appeal typically are required to post a bond covering 11/2

  times the judgment. A bondsman would post the money and require Simpson to

  give him 10% of the amount.


  But for the jury now considering Simpson's financial fate, his money situation is

  irrelevant at least for the moment. If jurors don't find Simpson liable for the

  attacks, the case is over. If they do find him liable, their first job is to set

  compensatory damages. Those would be awarded with no regard for Simpson's

  financial condition.


  Nicole's family chose not to file a wrongful-death suit, so they'll receive no

  compensatory damages. And the only direct loss to Nicole's estate under the

  survival action is the black dress she was wearing when she died, valued at $250.


  But Goldman's family did file for wrongful-death, leaving the jury to calculate a

  figure for their pain and suffering.


  Both sides already have been preparing the jury for that battle. Simpson's lawyer

  has painted the families as greedy. ``This fight is not about justice. This fight is

  about money,'' Robert Baker told jurors.


  The plaintiffs stress money is the only recourse they have left. ``Justice would be

  to see Ron Goldman walk through that door or Nicole Brown Simpson playing

  with her children,'' Fred Goldman's lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, told the jury.

  PHOTO,b/w,Jack Smith,AP; PHOTO,b/w,Eric Draper,AP