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Testimony ended Thursday in Chicago from the major players in the dispute between ex-Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan and the companies holding the right to use his name with a restaurant. The three-day bench trial before Senior U.S. District Judge James Moran resulted in a packed courtroom every day as the star-struck came out to watch the former NBA champion sit at a table, sip from a coffee cup, and confer at times with his attorneys or his agent, David Falk. Jordan did not testify during the trial. Because of scheduling conflicts, closing arguments won’t be until June 8. Moran must rule whether a license agreement signed between Jordan and four companies once controlled by brothers H. Gene Silverberg and Joe Silverberg can be terminated over what Jordan’s attorneys said were reputation-damaging remarks made by the Silverbergs. Jordan v. 23 Food Inc., et al., No. 00 C 1601. The license agreement allowed the companies to operate a restaurant bearing Jordan’s name in the River North area of Chicago. Especially objected to by Jordan’s counsel were alleged comments that he had “abandoned” the restaurant. If the judge decides the agreement wasn’t breeched, then he must further decide if the companies have the right to locate a Jordan-named restaurant at a new location. The LaSalle Street restaurant closed in December. The four companies filed for Chapter Seven bankruptcy protection in March, and a group of attorneys led by J. Samuel Tenenbaum, of Sachnoff & Weaver Ltd., represent the bankruptcy trustee in the trial. Both Silverberg brothers were called as adverse witnesses by lead Jordan counsel Frederick Sperling, of Chicago’s Schiff, Hardin & Waite. Gene Silverberg testified that a level of trust established between the brother and the Jordan camp was broken as Jordan spent less time at the LaSalle Street restaurant and more at a restaurant he invested in on the city’s near West Side. “I think by embracing our restaurant and then turning his back on it was a breach of trust,” Silverberg said. Beginning in about 1998, the brothers and Jordan were operating a “dying restaurant,” Silverberg said. “We were worried about it and it was starting to show erosion and that continued into 1999,” Silverberg said. “[Jordan's] continued appearances at OneSixtyBlue [the West Side eatery] started adding to that downward momentum.” In a moment of levity in a trial that has brought animosity between the Jordan camp and the Silverbergs to the surface, Sperling borrowed a favorite line from a popular television game show when he ended his questioning of Gene Silverberg over how much profit he and his brother made from the restaurant and a retail store selling Jordan merchandise. “Is that your final answer?” Sperling asked. “I’d like to canvas the audience,” Silverberg quipped back, bringing quiet laughter from the spectators.

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