X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
The victory Michael Jordan secured in a federal courtroom in Chicago Thursday may not bring him a ring or a public celebration in Grant Park, but it does return to him what has been called his most valuable asset — his name. Senior U.S. District Judge James B. Moran found that one of the controlling partners of the companies with a license agreement to use Jordan’s name in connection with a Chicago restaurant breached that agreement by making disparaging remarks last fall about the former Chicago Bulls star. “What this means is no one can open a Michael Jordan’s restaurant without his consent, and that’s the way it should be,” said Jordan’s trial counsel, Frederick Sperling, of Schiff, Hardin & Waite. Jordan was not present in court to hear the verdict. According to Jordan’s long-time agent, David Falk, he was in Pittsburgh for a charitable event. “This was not a fight that Michael Jordan wanted to fight,” Falk, a licensed attorney in Washington, D.C., told a group of reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building minutes after the verdict had been announced. “He was sued and he felt compelled, as he always does, to defend his name,” noted Falk in reference to an earlier round of litigation involving Jordan and his licensees. Moran’s decision brought to a close a bench trial that started before him last month. Testimony on Jordan’s complaint for a declaratory action that would make the disputed licensing agreement null and void was heard over three days, from May 23 to 25. And the closing arguments and decision were given Thursday because of scheduling conflicts. The ruling apparently turned upon a provision in the agreement that the companies protect and enhance Jordan’s name through the restaurant, Sperling said, but failed to do so when licensee H. Gene Silverberg made critical comments about the basketball great to newspaper reporters last fall. “I have no doubt his taking grievances to the media were breaches,” Moran said from the bench. “He went to the media, he sought them out over a relatively short period of time. That was deliberate. But they served no purpose as far as I can see.” The case of Jordan v. 23 Food Inc., et al., No. 00 C 1601, pitted the ex-NBA superstar against the four companies once controlled by brothers H. Gene Silverberg and Joe Silverberg which held the exclusive license agreement to use his name on the marquee of a Chicago-area restaurant. 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., represented the bankruptcy trustee at Jordan’s trial who reportedly was hoping to maintain rights to Jordan’s name as a valuable estate asset. Although the Silverbergs were not individual parties in the latest case involving the use of Jordan’s name for commercial purposes, they were present for the bench trial and both were called as adverse witnesses by Sperling. “We gave it a good fight, at the end of the day we knew we had a real uphill battle going up against Michael Jordan, considering who he is and what he is,” Gene Silverberg said of the case. Joe Silverberg left the Dirksen Building without commenting on the verdict. Among the statements made by Gene Silverberg that were the basis of the ruling were that Jordan had abandoned his namesake restaurant on LaSalle Street in the River North area; and that Silverberg was going to pressure Jordan into making more appearances at the eatery. The restaurant closed in December. Despite his statements being the basis for the licensing agreement’s termination, Gene Silverberg was not repentant about what he said. “I felt some of Mr. Jordan’s actions were not appropriate within the context of the partnership and the spirit of the relationship with the fans,” Silverberg said. He would be meeting with the bankruptcy trustee to determine whether the decision will be appealed, Tenenbaum said. To prove their case, Jordan’s legal team had to show that the statements harmed Jordan’s reputation. This was done through testimony of associates telling of lost business opportunities to expand the Jordan-named restaurants to other cities. During his closing argument, Sperling pointed out the testimony of the owner of the Michael Jordan’s restaurant in New York City who told of an $11,000 drop in sales in the restaurant’s retail shops after Silverberg’s statements were reported in local newspapers. In his closing arguments, Tenenbaum pointed to Jordan becoming general manager for the NBA Washington Wizards, and becoming involved with Divine InterVentures, a Chicago-based capital venture company that provides seed money for Internet start-ups, as evidence that his reputation had not been harmed. “Mr. Jordan is not damaged goods due to the statements Gene Silverberg said,” Tenenbaum concluded.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.